Movie magic for Derry girl Maria

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It something many young girls dream about - finding themselves walking the red (or this case blue) carpet at a big premiere while the paparazzi vie for your attention.

And for Derry schoolgirl Maria Laird this dream came true on Wednesday night when she attended the Irish premiere of the drama ‘Shadow Dancer’ in which she plays a pivotal role.

The 13 year old Thornhill College pupil said attending the premiere in Dublin on Wednesday night was “totally amazing” and rounded off a “brilliant experience” filming scenes for the drama - penned by former ITN Ireland correspondent Tom Bradby.

The tense drama follows the story of single mother Colette McVeigh - a young IRA member forced to turn informer for MI5 - with dramatic consequences.

Maria, a pupil of the Foyle School of Speech and Drama under Sandra Biddle, plays the role of the young Colette - in a scene set in 1973.

In a poignant scene Maria as Colette is seen immersed in the girly pastime of stringing beads, when she is asked to go to the shop for cigarettes for her father. Instead she sends her little brother, who gets caught in crossfire and killed. Stunned guilt is written all over the girl’s face as she stares mutely at her anguished family gathered around his body, her brightly coloured new necklace seeming to reinforce her culpability.

Maria filmed her scenes over three days in Dublin and said she had a brilliant time working with the cast and crew, including Oscar winning director James Marsh. She also got to meet Tom Bradby himself - who her mother Donna described as a “gentleman”.

Although the movie holds a 15A rating, Donna said she was happy for her daughter to act in it and watch it. “The themes are pretty serious, but I was more than happy to support Maria.”

“Everyone was lovely,” Maria enthused. “I had such a great time. It was just a brilliant experience.”

Maria, who has been acting since she was five, says she is now more determined than ever to fulfil her ambition of a life on the screen and stage.

“This is definitely what I want to do,” she said. “I just love acting so much.”

She added that she has had great support from her family and friends, including her classmates at Thornhill College where she is just entering year nine and from all at the Foyle School of Speech and Drama.

With many acting years ahead of her she is keen to enjoy a diverse range of roles - but if she could choose a dream role she doesn’t hesitate. “I’d love to play a detective,” she said.