Maggie Muff’s Last Hurrah!
It’s been ten years to the day since Maggie Muff first stepped on stage at the MAC in Belfast. And now, tart with a heart Maggie is returning to where it all began fpr the very last time in Maggie – Yer Ma, which runs from 25 Jan to 12 Feb 2023.
The final instalment in the Maggie plays that gave us the hugely successful 50 Shades of Red, White and Blue, Dirty Dancin’ in le Shebeen, and Maggie’s Feg Run is the brain child of writer Leesa Harker, and once again stars Caroline Curran as Maggie Muff, directed by Andrea Montgomery.
Produced by Leesa Harker’s own production company, Red Brick Road Productions, her plays continue to bring a demographic not previously seen to theatres across the province.
Leesa said, “I realised quite quickly after 50 Shades of Red, White and Blue that a high percentage of the audience had never been to the theatre before seeing my play. I asked people why they were ‘theatre virgins’ and got responses such as ‘theatre is not for the working–class’ and ‘it’s all one-sided political plays.’ There has been a lot of talk lately about the lack of working-class Protestants involved in the Arts and I must say, I have experienced this myself in the last ten years. I realised I had the potential to make theatre more accessible to those people who felt excluded."
10 Years to the day
It was January 2013 when Maggie Muff first stepped on stage to a packed audience at the MAC. The Belfast flag protests of 2013 were in full swing with several roads in and around the MAC closed due to unrest in the city. Writer Leesa Harker says, “I was worried about people not coming because of the riots that were happening. To my delight, they turned up in their droves – the MAC box office even had a waiting list for tickets!” Although riots were happening outside, inside the theatre, Leesa Harker, writer, from the Shore Road and Caroline Curran, actor, from Short Strand were creating something magical. Later joined by Canadian Director Andrea Montgomery, the three created Maggie plays that dominated theatre in Northern Ireland for the next ten years.
The End is Nigh
It’s ten years that have seen writer Leesa Harker become a well-known name in comedy, theatre, and now TV in Northern Ireland and beyond. Leesa says, “It has been a roller-coaster ride! I’ve won awards for my writing and also dealt with a cancer diagnosis - big highs and lows. When I started writing Maggie Muff, I was a single parent on benefits. It felt like a dream to be writing for theatre and now TV. I’ve had the best time and Maggie has opened so many doors for me, but it’s definitely the end for Maggie. I’m glad the last ever show will be at The MAC Theatre in Belfast, back where it all began ten years ago!” Leesa is currently writing on the popular TV series, HOPE STREET (BBC/Britbox) and has written and produced a short film (The Bully), which will be shown at film festivals throughout 2023.
Andrea Montgomery, director of the Maggie plays, never thought as a Canadian, that contact with Rabelaisian Belfast character, Maggie Muff, would have her work in every theatre in Northern Ireland, year after year. She says, ”Working on the Maggie Muff plays has made me feel connected to this place I’ve chosen to make my home. It also connects me to a tradition of comedy and filth, which, in my mind, goes back thousands of years. I grew up studying ancient Greek comedy and I think there’s a direct line through so much of what makes us laugh and is about life force and women’s strength. It feels so important to be part of that history in Belfast.”
Caroline Curran has acted the part of Maggie and all of the other characters (they are all one-woman shows) for ten years. Saying ‘yes’ to Maggie took her from working backstage, to being one of the most well-known comedy actors in Belfast. She says, “The last ten years has been a life-changing experience for me. Making people laugh and cry at the same time on stage has been an absolute privilege. It’s hard to sum into words how much Maggie means to her fans – and me. The joy and comfort she gives to people, me included will ensure her legacy lives on. There will be tears at the end of this run for sure!”
Leesa Harker has been writing poems and stories since she was a child, she says, ‘It all started with some poems about my granny’s flatulence when I was about eight.’ She was the talk of Norn Iron in the Summer of 2012 with her hit internet sensation, ‘Fifty Shades of Red White and Blue’ which was a best-seller once published. She quickly followed this with further novels, ‘Dirty Dancin in le Shebeen’, ‘Maggie’s Feg Run’ and ‘Maggie Muff’s Norn Iron Dictionary’. She has now adapted her first three novels into plays, the first successfully touring the UK, Ireland and Australia. Her forth and final Maggie play, Maggie – Yer Ma! Opened at The Grand Opera House in 2018. She has written several other plays and has been commissioned by BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Scotland to write a short comedy radio pilot called, “The Notmums” which aired in 2018. She is currently writing for the BBC TV series, Hope Street, for Long Story TV and wrote and produced a short film, The Bully, in 2022.
A director with 40 professional productions to her name, Andrea Montgomery has script-edited and work-shopped 25+ plays. As a writer, she has seen her work commissioned for theatre, radio and film. With a career spanning fringe to West End, she has brought International work to Northern Ireland as well as Northern Irish work abroad. She is the Artistic Director of Terra Nova Productions. Andrea loves comedy - she has co-written and directed the puppet show The Ulster Kama Sutra, amongst others. Andrea produced and directed The Tempest in 2016 as part of the Shakespeare 400 year celebrations in Belfast and is currently working on a new theatre piece, ‘The Trumpet and the King.’
Caroline received a BA Hons in Drama from Queen’s University. She has worked extensively in Northern Ireland theatre and has starred as Maggie Muff in all productions. She has also written several comedy plays for Theatre at the Mill as well as starring in Soft Border Patrol (BBC NI).