Tara has plenty of laughs on the shelf this Christmas

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When you’re in your 40s and spending Christmas alone, the last thing you need is a 6’ 4” elf popping in to wreck havoc over the festive season. But that is just what happens to Paula in On The Shelf, a fast paced, dark comedy, which is coming to the Grand Opera House Belfast next month. Starring Tara Lynne O’Neill, well known as Ma Mary on the hit TV show Derry Girls, and her friend of 20 years Chris Robinson, this show is set to bring plenty of laughs to the stage this Christmas.

Faced with spending a lifetime of Christmases alone, Paula decides to peel off the spanx, pour a drink or 12, and dish the dirt on love, life and turning 40. Like the rest of her night though, things don’t go quite to plan with the arrival of an unusual house guest (Chris Robinson). If you’re curious to see what might happen if Bridget Jones lived in Belfast and fed a Gremlin after midnight, then this is the show for you.

Tara began acting when she was a teenager in youth theatre and instantly fell in love with the profession. “I was a teenager looking for a sense of belonging and to have fun, which ultimately is what theatre should be,” she told us.

“I very quickly knew I wanted to be an actor. Who wouldn’t want to play dress up all day?”

Tara went on to star in her first film and was part of the team that fronted the BBC NI kids show Over The Wall Gang. She continued her career in both stage and screen, appearing as Joanne Ryan in Eastenders in 2002 and 2003. Most recently, Tara went back to the small screen in the smash hit show Derry Girls, and she is currently filming the second series as Ma Mary.

“I am so delighted to be part of Derry Girls,” she said. “It is so special to have something from Northern Ireland.”

Looking forward to being back on stage for Christmas, Tara said: “I’ve been in panto every year since I was 17 and this year Chris and I decided to do a show for adults. All I ever want to do at Christmas is have fun. Kids have panto but adults want fun too.

“When you are in your 40s you are never the love interest or the main focus and I wanted to carry the baton and say we can be the centre of the story. We are no longer damsels in distress.”

Tickets are on sale from the Box Office on 028 9024 1919 and online at www.goh.co.uk.