Are Yule Being Served?  
Patrick Buchanan and Caroline Curran in 'Are Yule Being Served?'
Production Photo: Melissa Gordon

A perfect fit amongst a true smorgasbord of very varied theatrical entertainments this Christmas, Are Yule Being Served?, written by and starring Caroline Curran and directed by Dominic Montague, achieves its primary goal of frequently tickling the funny bone while also capturing the fragility and emptiness that can go hand in hand with the buzz and excitement in both acting and hospitality. In that sense, it transcends what could simply be an extended sitcom and becomes a rather inspiring experience for all those in attendance upstairs at Belfast's MAC.

You're either in demand or you're not. This seems to be the central dilemma facing Curran's Scarlett, aspiring actress and waitress at the wonderfully named but apparently not as wonderfully welcoming Wind Yer Neck Inn. Weighed down by busyness, apparently unrequited love and that feeling of not being able to confide in any one but the angel on top of her Christmas tree, Scarlett's trust and faith in people look like they have sunk to the bottom... and no, I'm not referencing the inevitable flatulence jokes in this production. Which, I assure you, will not merely swing the mood but lift it, along with various characters played not only by Curran but also Patrick Buchanan and Rhodri Lewis.

Rhodri Lewis and Patrick Buchanan in 'Are Yule Being Served?'
Production Photo: Melissa Gordon

The way in which this seemingly sudden but truthfully adroit shift from the mildly dramatic to the heavily comedic is handled is just a hint at what really makes Are Yule Being Served? tick – a sound tonal balance. Under Montague's guiding hand, Curran brings us a sturdy blend of not only character depth for Scarlett and Scarlett's career, but also verbal and physical humour amidst loud, proud and even musical multi-character playing antics. Without spoiling too much, among the Wind Yer Neck Inn's most notable subplots or sketches involve Lewis's literal Grinch and his hilarious efforts at schooling people in philosophy and etiquette, the family story of Buchanan's Genie and the gravy boat which, from a distance, looks like a lamp - naturally! - and a duo named Mickey and Eddie, who are less like Blood Brothers and more like a George Michael tribute act.

While all this goes on, the thoughtful undercurrent and the heart of Scarlett's story remains – the apparent burden of putting on a show for people both as an actor and as a host. Knowing how to react and how to behave when it feels like one's world really is a stage where they almost always feel that they are expected, even demanded, to serve another's needs with the right kind of appearance, an appearance that could easily be interpreted as genuine dependence when the time to form a true connection just isn't there. And how the lack of said connection can play its part in ensuring that hospitality can't always be hospitable and actors can't always put on a show when the audience wants or needs them to. Luckily for this audience, Curran, Lewis and Buchanan do put on quite a show – and in doing so, they bring a fair amount of joy to our worlds.

Simon Fallaha

Are Yule Being Served? runs upstairs at The MAC, Belfast, until Sunday December 31. For more information, and tickets, click here.