What was it like to grow up in Northern Ireland during the 1990s, with the conflict – or The Troubles – still raging?
That’s the question Lisa McGee aims to answer in her new sitcom Derry Girls.
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The six part series is due to debut on Channel 4 this Christmas, but what’s it all about? And who are the Derry Girls, exactly?
When is Derry Girls on TV?
Derry Girls will air on Thursday 4th January at 10pm on Channel 4.
What is Derry Girls?
Derry Girls is a new six part comedy and coming-of-age story, written by Indian Summers and Being Human screenwriter Lisa McGee. The show – which is based on McGee’s own experiences as a teenager – follows 16-year-old Erin and her friends, who live in a world of armed police in armoured Land Rovers, British Army check points and ‘peace’ walls.
Teenage life must go on, though – even against the backdrop of the Northern Ireland conflict – so Erin’s more concerned about the fact that the boy she’s in love with doesn’t know she exists. Or that her cousin, who she’s pretty much forced to hang out with, can’t keep her nose out of her business. Or that, y’know, her second best pal has very nearly had sex and she’s yet to actually have her first kiss.
Why would you make a comedy set during the Troubles?
“Anything set during the Troubles tends to be a bit grim and bleak”, McGee explains, “but that just wasn’t my experience of Derry as a child and a teenager . It was a joyful place – I’d like to celebrate that. It was also hugely matriarchal, so I was keen we have a large and varied cast of female characters.”
And with a debate about an Irish border now back on the agenda, her tale could prove more timely than ever.
“With the delicate political ecosystem of the country about to be tested by The Conservatives and The DUP, it seems well worth reminding ourselves how things were not so long ago, and what better way to do that than through comedy?” McGee asks.
Who is in Derry Girls?
Saoirse Monica Jackson stars as leading lady Erin, while Tara Lynne O’Neill and Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan play her parents. Game of Thrones’ Ian McElhinney plays her grandfather (who can’t resist having a pop at her dad) while Kathy Kiera Clarke is her weird and wonderful aunt Sarah, mother to her curious cousin, Orla, who is played by Louisa Harland.
Erin’s also got two best friends: Clever and ambitious Clare (Nicola Coughlan) and the unashamedly mouthy Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell). Oh and then there’s Michelle’s cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn) – aka “The English Fella”.
Her main enemy is her school principal, the eternally unimpressed Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney)
And as for the love of her life, well, he’s played by Harry Potter and The Cursed Child star Anthony Boyle.
Is Derry Girls any good?
If you loved My Mad Fat Diary then Derry Girls is right up your alley. It’s witty, charming and absolutely laden with 90s nostalgia – plus it’s got a cracking soundtrack. And perhaps most importantly it really does do exactly what Lisa McGee wanted it to. It reminds us that while the conflict raged around them, the teenagers of Northern Ireland dealt with the exact same growing pains and troubles as the rest of us.