“If you really love Christmas, c’mon and let it snow.” So sang Bill Nighy’s washed-up rock star Billy Mack in Richard Curtis’s 2003 romcom Love Actually – and it turns out the filmmaker really does love the festive holiday, as he’s just announced that his next project will be Christmas Actually.
The writer-director’s new venture is not a sequel to Love Actually, but a stage show involving live music, performance, poetry, and comedy. The production will raise funds for charity Comic Relief.
Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry founded the charity in 1985 in response to the famine in Ethiopia. It raises millions every year with its annual event Red Nose Day.
Christmas Actually will run for eight performances at London’s Royal Festival Hall from 7 to 11 December 2023.
“We hope it’ll be a real chocolate box – or perhaps advent calendar – of delights,” Curtis told BBC News, adding that it would be “noisy and emotional and full of surprises and jokes, with some proper celebrity sparkle”.
“I remember I didn’t always love the Christmas shows I took my children to, but I always took them to one,” Curtis said. “So we thought it would be fun to make a show for Christmas that really is fun for all the family. And then the idea of doing it also to raise money for Comic Relief made the idea irresistible.”
“We hope to cram a wealth of wonder into 90 noisy minutes. I suspect some members of the audience will go away with presents they weren’t expecting – there’ll definitely be some rowdy singing along and some unexpected famous people will pop up on the screens and even in person.”
Last year, Curtis admitted that the lack of diversity in Love Actually doesn’t sit well with him.
Love Actually follows numerous storylines about people in love. Besides the interracial marriage between Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor, however, the cast is white.
The relationships are also exclusively heterosexual (although there is homoerotic subtext between Nighy’s character and his manager). A lesbian storyline with Anne Reid and Frances de La Tour was cut from the final version of the film.
“My film is bound in some moments to feel out of date,” he said. “The lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid.”
Curtis is also currently working on another festive release, an untitled film starring Melissa McCarthy, Paapa Essiedu, and Marc Maron, about a workaholic father who tries to win his family back in time for Christmas with the help of a magic genie.
Tickets for Christmas Actually go on sale at 10am on Wednesday 19 July here and a percentage of ticket sales will go to Comic Relief to support projects changing lives across the UK and around the world.