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Eternally Scrooged: A Belfast adaptation of a classic story

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Eternally Scrooged

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Regional theatre is alive and well in Northern Ireland and no better place to enjoy it than at the Theatre on the Mill in Newtownabbey, a 25-minute drive outside Belfast.
With the support of national and EU funding, local authorities have developed an attractive complex housing ornate gardens and the theatre itself on the site of a 19th century linen mill.
The theatre, spacious, comfortable and modern, with triple balconies either side of the stage and one at the rear, hosts diverse productions including plays, musicals, concerts and talks. The organisers are also open to original dramatic scripts, the latest being ‘Eternally Scrooged,’ a comedy written by Andrea Montgomery and Anthony Toner, which runs until Sunday, January 5.
Taking the classic Dickensian ‘A Christmas Carol’ about Ebenezer Scrooge, the writers have transported the story to Belfast in the 1980s, complete with sound tracks of the era. Instead of a miserly accountant, the main character is Evangeline Scrooge (the surname being the elevated French pronunciation with a long e), a haughty, female romance writer with a heart of stone played memorably by Nuala McKeever inspired by Jackie Collins and the high camp world of romance then .
The three ghosts who visit her are impressive by their contrasts, two of them being characters from Evangeline’s novels. ‘Christmas Past’ is a suave, tuxedo-dressed fellow, the archetypal heartthrob of romance literature while ‘Christmas Present’ is a free-talking, buxom Scottish lass played by Abigail McGibbon. The Ghost of Christmas Future is a computer-like machine above the stage, which shows Evangeline she will die fat and alone, nibbled upon by a pile of cats.
The writers have peppered the play with amusing one-liners, with Abigail being the most prolific. She saucily describes her ample breasts as “the last cantaloupes in an Aberdeen Azda,” tells her maker that “her bodice buttons keep bursting open in the heather” and complains that the “only fondling men do nowadays is with the TV remote.”
Mention should be made of the sheer versatility of the actors, with most playing multiple roles. Julian Eardley portrays several diverse characters including a pot-smoking manager of a parcel delivery service, a literary agent and an old man in a wheelchair while Shaun Blaney moves from being the Ghost of Christmas Past to Tiny Tim to a sleezy reporter. Caroline Curran, conducts the role of Bobbi Cratchit, Evangeline’s hard-pressed assistant, who falls for as lycra-clad bike courier, wonderfully well.
While the stage design is not elaborate, Montgomery, who is also the show's director, has made creative use of moveable screens to project different sets, ranging from Evangeline’s succulent bedroom to a lively party scene.
'Eternally Scrooged' makes for a relaxing evening out, imbuing one with the spirit of the season while putting a smile on one's face ahead of the madcap Christmas rush.

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