At the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey, comedian Nuala McKeever is playing Evangeline Scrooge (with an accent on the ‘e’), a revision of the cental character of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
“This is our own special spin on the traditional Christmas Carol story only here our curmudgeon is me, Evangeline, a Jackie Collins-esque romance writer and a miser, stuck in the 1980s with her big hair and her love of 80s music.
“Evangeline has a heart of stone and her little assistant is the lovely Bobbi Cratchit.
“Her literary agent was one Barbara Marley, who turns up and says if you don’t get your act together and change your ways I will send you three ghosts who will let you see what a horrible life you will lead if you continue to be cold and stone-hearted.”
In keeping with the time-honoured and much-loved Dickensian story, Evangeline (as opposed to Ebeneezer) is taken on a cautionary journey by three ghosts who in various ways show her the errors of her materialistic mind-set and selfishness, only here when they enter the action they appear as creations from her novels.
“One of them is a sort of 1940s Bradley Featherstone, like something from an old romance film - very debonair, and another of them is a Highland Scot lady in tartan and a bat suit,” laughs Nuala, who is by far and away the best comic actress on the Northern Irish circuit and is certain to make Evangeline as funny as she is stingy.
“Evangeline was the lonely girl at school and she kind of hardened her heart. She had success as a writer but kept herself closed off from others.”
And of course, it being Christmas, it all must end with Evangeline mending her ways and sharing in the gift-giving, turkey-eating togetherness of the festive season?
“She realises if she doesn’t change she will end up on her own, surrounded by cats and 26-stone, caring only about money.”
This production, because of Evangeline’s tastes, has a lot of 80s music - some of it really catchy stuff that will definitely have you itching to dance in the aisles if only it wasn’t such a terrible faux pas to do so at the theatre.
“It’s funny, fast-paced, lots of use of sound and light and plenty of good songs,” says Mckeever. “We have Bat Out Of Hell, Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart, Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, 99 Red Balloons, Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cindi Lauper, Oh Betty You’re So Fine, Kate Bush, Jingle Bells and Blondie’s Heart of Glass.
“It’s a very jolly piece in the end, of course, and everyone’s having a laugh and dancing round the hearth.”
Is Nuala herself a bit of a Scrooge or does she love Christmas as much as the next person?
“I especially loved Christmas growing up - everyone does, don’t they? Maybe I have become a bit older and hardened but I do love some of it - everyone coming together; my family all get on really well together and we celebrate with about three Christmas dinners. Above all if you’ve been really busy it’s just great to get a bit of a break.
“I like to think this is an adult alternative to panto - a Christmas show that will make people laugh while also telling a heart-warming story.”
Eternally Scrooged is directed and co-wrtten by Andrea Montgomery - a long-time collaborator of McKeever’s - and Anthony Toner. The production also stars Caroline Curran, who impressed local audiences in the risque one-woman show Fifty Shades of Red White and Blue - a local drama based on the bestselling erotic novel by EL James.
Eternally Scrooged runs at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, until January 5. Visit www.theatratthemill.com/ or call the box office on 02890 340202.