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The Nightshift Before Christmas review at Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey – ‘lunacy and pathos’

Scene from The Nightshift before Christmas at Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey
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Spare a thought for those valiant souls who staff A&E departments on Christmas Eve. Writers/actors Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell have done just that, introducing their respective experiences as new mother and new wife into this sparky offering for the festive season.

Their stage chemistry as nurses Cindy and Ella is based on long personal friendship and finely honed acting skills. The clock ticks towards midnight as a procession of cartoonish characters stumble into the safe haven of the emergency ward. The women find themselves confronting genuine dilemmas between professional duties and home life, not to mention the pressures imposed by a desperately overstretched health service.

Director Peter Ballance has marshalled his troops impressively in this slick situation comedy and the excellent cast don’t miss a beat in a total of 16 contrasting roles. Along with their eccentric Ward Sister (Abigail McGibbon) and a handsome junior doctor (Patrick Buchanan), Cindy and Ella juggle the needs of Santa Dave with a toy soldier stuck in his rear end, a donkey with trapped wind, a drunken country music fanatic (James Doran), a chaotic young woman in labour, a Polish woman and her dog…

This mix of lunacy and pathos elicits laughter and sorrow in an unpretentious, entertaining show that does what it says on the tin.

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A&E-set comedy with a fine cast and a quick-fire script