The Nightshift Before Christmas | Review
Theatre at the Mill • Show runs until Sunday 31 December ’17
By Conor O’Neill
Not often you get a play in panto season focused on the emergency services. Step forth Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell to fill that void. This is the writing duo’s third year at The Mill and they’re getting better as every year goes by. Maybe it’s motherhood (Curran was writing notes while pushing little Molly into planet Belfast earlier this year) while Lewis went and got married.
Perhaps these new-found responsibilities leant themselves to a play while not navel-gazing in nature, believe me, it’s a gag a minute, but there is a message that brings a spring to one’s step in this snowy December.
The plot is simple and direct. Two nurses, Ella (Lewis) and Cindy (Curran) are trying their utmost to get the Christmas Eve shift over with as little trouble as possible. The Royal Abbey Hospital’s ward sister Payne (by name and nature) (Abigail McGibbon) insists everything must be done the correct way and along with mishap-prone new Doctor Dickie (Patrick Buchannan), things don’t go quite to plan.
Santa Dave with a toy (no, not the Anne Summers’ sort) stuck up his ho-ho … bum, the nativity donkey turned commentator on the joys of childbirth: “The pain is coming in waves.” Inn-keeper: “I hope it’s a tsunami!” Mum Gloria (Curran again) delivers the child successfully and insists on a “designer vagina”.
Throw in a few more patients and staff (Maxwell, Curran, McGibbon, James Doran and Buchannan all play multiple roles), unlikely ailments, a host of Christmas songs and just a touch of sentimentality and a good show it is. Director Peter Balance, cast and crew should be proud.
Speaking to Maxwell and Curran afterwards, CultureHUB found them in grand form. Speaking of their writing progress Curran says: “Every year we try to do something different. Julie got married and I had a baby in September and we interviewed doctors, nurses and everyone involved in a hospital. We wanted to pay homage to doctors and nurses, especially this time of year, this is not just another day of the year, they have Christmas plans too.”
Maxwell continues: “We met in an audition eight years ago and went to the pub after. We have the same sense of humour and just bounce off each other.” As to their roles in writing I ask is there a straight-man and a comic set-up, Maxwell continues: “I think I tend to be a wee bit sad where Caroline has comedy coming out of her pores.” Curran carries on: “I think that’s what works with our shows. We always say ‘it’s a Christmas show with a heart’. Because we draw on real experiences and there’s always something funny that comes out of heartache somewhere and that’s what we try to inject into our shows.”
To witness both the tragic and terrifically funny phone the box office on: 02890 340202 or visit www.theatreatthemill.com The Nightshift Before Christmas runs to Sunday 31 December
More information on CultureHUB Magazine. Preview of the Winter Issue (12).