Derry actor Gary Crossan had them rolling in the aisles with his turn as ‘PC Pong’ in the Millenium Forum’s Christmas panto, Aladdin, in 2016.
Three years on and the 28-year-old Pennyburn-native will be metaphorically stuck up the Glenshane at Christmas when he delivers a darker Yuletide treat in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
Gary plays Rudy in ‘Driving Home for Christmas’, the Lyric’s Christmas special, alongside well-known comic duo Conor Grimes and Alan McKee.
“It’s a spooky story about four people who don’t know each other who end up trapped in the ‘highest pub in Ireland’. The funny thing is it’s called the ‘Dander Inn’. We make reference to the Ponderosa and the publican is raging because he thinks he’s got the highest pub!
“If you think about the bad snow we had five or six years ago these people get trapped on Christmas Eve in the middle of nowhere and they have to make the best of it. But something’s not right with the pub they are in. That’s all I can really say,” says Gary.
It’s a departure for the Derry thespian who has been doing panto at Christmas since playing ‘PC Pong’ at the Millenium.
“It was my first ever panto. I actually met my girlfriend during it and we’re still together. I remember going to see the pantos in the Rialto years ago. So it was a big deal. I loved doing panto in Derry. It was brilliant crack being in your home city for Christmas. There’s nothing beats it.”
The change of a pace is something he’ll take in his stride. Since graduating from Queen’s seven years ago he’s been doing a lot of dark comedy up in Belfast. He’s hoping his hometown theatre crowd comes up to support the show.
“It starts at 7 p.m. and you’re finished at 9.30 p.m. If you’re up for a bit of crack, or up at the Christmas market, you can go to the show and you’ll still be out the door at 9.30. Belfast and Derry aren’t as far apart as people think they are.”
‘Driving Home for Christmas’ runs at the from November 19 to January 4. Tickets are now available, starting from £12 at www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or 028 9038 1081.