At a special BAFTA preview of two episodes of the new series of Derry Girls, followed by a Q+A with the creative team, the audience were rolling in the aisles and if these new episodes are anything to go by, the return promises to be a success.
Winner of Best Sitcom category at both the recent Broadcast Awards and the British Comedy Guide Awards, the show became an instant hit when launched in January 2018 and having since been picked up by Netflix, looks set to become an international phenomenon. It follows the escapades of a gang of teenage girls and a ‘wee English fella’ as they navigate their way through school in early 1990’s Northern Ireland. The dark humour and larger-than-life characters featuring an authentic depiction of everyday life, set against a backdrop of army checkpoints and bomb threats, has endeared itself to an ever-growing audience. Writer, Lisa McGee and Director, Michael Lennox have successfully created an original and wickedly funny show that balances an honest representation of the local people during ‘the troubles’ with universal appeal. The young and talented main cast, Saoirse Monica Jackson (Erin), Louisa Harland (Orla), Nicola Coughlan (Clare), Jamie Lee O’Donnell (Michelle) and Dylan Llewellyn (James) are ably supported by an equally comical set of grown-ups, friends and adversaries.
Father Peter (Peter Camption) with the perfect hair returns in episode one and much to Sister Michael’s (Siobhan McSweeney) disdain, attempts bridge building between Catholics and Protestants. When the two groups are teamed up, Clare is upset when she has to share her Protestant and confusion ensues when she mishears ‘athletes’ for ‘Catholics’. In Episode two Da Gerry’s (Tommy Tiernan) hopes for a quiet night at the cinema with Ma Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill) take a turn for the worse and the friends are inspired and obsessed by a new, cool, English teacher in homage to Dead Poet’s Society with inevitable hilarious consequences.
Watching in the BAFTA cinema with a larger than average tv audience has its own advantages. The laughs are very loud and bonding and enjoyment palpable. Should they wish it, a feature film further down the line seems a no-brainer. The BAFTA Q&A with writer, director and four of the cast reveals a bunch of extremely humble folk slightly astonished and overwhelmed at their success. They talk about being mobbed by fans in Belfast and New York and Lisa McGee on whose experiences the show is based, explains how she can take more risks and write more jokes knowing the cast can deliver, how the contemporary pop music like the Cranberries, a gorgeous layer to the show is chosen and how the film references like the hilarious Usual Suspects thread come about. A successful writer of both drama and comedy when asked which she prefers, Lisa claims structure is the key and both are equally painful. Without wishing to cause her further pain, we can only hope she can bear it for a while longer.
Derry Girls starts on 5th March 9.15pm Channel 4 – For a truly comic treat catch up on Series one and new episodes of Series two on All Four