By Conor O’Neill
I’ve never been a big fan of the tele series, but in a packed Grand Opera House will my mind be changed? They start off as they mean to go on: “We’re gonna party like it’s 10 Downing street!” And though many of the jokes are returned to, none of them feel stale after the retelling or embellishment.
Of course the three writers are here: Tim McGarry as Da, Damon Quinn as his somewhat intelligence bereft son Cal and Michael McDowell as PSNI officer Billy. Joining the three are Alexandra Ford as Dypna, Ciaran Nolan as the Knee Breakers’ landlord Sandy, the diminutive Olivia Nash as Ma and last but not least, Paddy Jenkins as the strangely lovable Pastor Begbie.
The general gist is this, two plots, sort of intertwined, a lot of audience interaction, and a few big musical numbers to bring a smile to your face.
The writers, after two years of relative silence, have a field to plough: covid; the upcoming elections; Belfast the movie, Party Gate and every Northern Ireland celebrity, town and political party worthy of mention is not the beyond the wringer here. Believe me, Kenneth Branagh, Newry, Larne, any MLA nor Stephen Nolan comes out of this well. Even the audience gets it, McGarry to those in the boxes: “You must be Alliance voters, nice to see you’ve found your seats okay? At least you’re not sitting on the f*ckin fence for once!”
I think most of my past dislike for the TV show was the fact that it was over-acted; it seemed just a bit too physical and amateurish compared to sleeker comedy shows, but here, in front of a live audience, the physicality of the actors is what brings it to life.
Whether it be Dypna’s seductions or Sandy’s idiotic devotion to Pastor Begbie, you can only laugh. Speaking of the latter, Paddy Jenkins’ melodic lament to the TUV’s Jim Allister is laugh-out-loud stomach-crunchingly hilarious.
After the interval Tim McGarry treats the audience to about a half hour of razor-sharp stand-up. This is worthy of the ticket price alone.
Will I be setting reminders on the tele when the series returns to our screens? Probably not. But the live show is another matter.
Give My Head Peace: Live runs at the Grand opera House up to and including Saturday April 2, 2022.
For booking details visit http://www.goh.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02090 241919
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