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Union Road: United by Christmas?

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Xpression FM’s new soap opera Union Road celebrates Christmas in a bumper-length special on Wednesday at 5.30pm. And the question of everyone’s lips is:

Who is going to be seen kissing under the mistletoe?

Thomas (Jordan Edgington) and Mary (Sophie Weeks)? Below: Jake (William Moore) and Samuel (Jon Jones)? Or someone else…?
Thomas (Jordan Edgington) and Mary (Sophie Weeks)?
Below: Jake (William Moore) and Samuel (Jon Jones)?
Or someone else…?

I love Christmas specials.

Christmas specials make Christmas. There’s something about settling down to tune in to a special version of a show you love that just enriches the whole season. When I pitched Union Road to the endlessly supportive Chris Featonby (Head of Scripted at Xpression), I finished with, “…oh, and there will be a Christmas special of course.” There was no doubt in my mind that this would happen, and that it would be big. Any show worth its salt doesn’t dare neglect the festive season. From EastEnders to Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing to Call the Midwife, Coronation Street to Downton Abbey…

Except Downton is breaking the cardinal rule. This year their special is set in the Summer. Christmas specials are so much fun, but only if they are Christmassy. And that means: snow, crackers, joy, food, twinkly lights, stupid jokes and… mistletoe.

You won’t catch Union Road doing the Yuletide season half-heartedly… which is all the more exceptional given the schedule meant I had to put pen to paper for this in early October. To me, it feels like Christmas has been and gone. I’m sick of it. Isn’t it Easter yet? (Never mind Christmas, you wait until you see what Union Road has in store at Easter…)

I say this every week, but the Christmas special is the best episode of Union Road so far. There are some beautiful gear-change moments – the story lurches from the most tragic point imaginable to the most comic, in a heartbeat. It just would not be a Christmas special without a touch of disaster, but it has to be balanced. That’s what happens in homes across the country: you have a ball, but tensions erupt too. And the whole outing is spiced up by some great Christmas tunes – expect the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s classic (recently voted on Xpression’s Christmas Chart as the best festive song ever!). We also have a great guest appearance from the Harmonics group, part of A Capella Society. Their contribution makes the special feel very special.

Because that was my main concern when writing this. It the big one and that means big stories. It was vital that every story reaches a crescendo here. So (spoiler alert) last week, we had the big twist that Mr Lazenby was murdered. That makes for a very dramatic Christmas lunch with the surviving Lazenbys… all of whom are under suspicion! But whodunit? Keep listening to find out.

The centrepiece is this wonderful mistletoe story. It’s not enough to have a huge story in a Christmas special, a story like finding out whodunit, or a story like the shock exit of a beloved character… no, all that is to come. What you need on Christmas is a Christmassy story – and what could be more Christmassy than a couple, in the snow, on a park bench, in the glittering lights, kissing under the mistletoe.

The question is: who?

We may have presented Jake and Samuel and Mary and Thomas as the two main possibilities, but could it be someone else? Part of the fun of this story is the wild speculation it encourages. Please, feel free to take to Twitter and place your bets! Tweet with the hashtag #UnitedbyChristmas, and if your idea is better than mine I might even rewrite the script at last minute. (Not really, my idea definitely wins… you’ll see.)

So I made it special. And Harmonics made it special. But the main people that make it special were my incredibly talented cast. Lucy Kinghorn and Hannah Cummings will make you cry with laughter, and Maddie Joint will make you cry for a very different reason. The Lazenby actors go even further with their biting cruelty… and once again prove their utter star quality. Actors like Jack Sheeran who can show vulnerability then hideous brutality in the same breath. And those mistletoe couples pitch their romantic scenes perfectly. I adore all of them.

I adore them all so much I didn’t trust them with the secret! To this date only a select few know who is kissing who under that mistletoe. And it isn’t easy to keep secrets like these – you talk to your housemates, or in my case, your mother (Union Road’s number one fan), and before you know it you’ve divulged a huge spoiler. So I was strict about this one, and by and large it’s worked. Who is it kissing under the mistletoe? I won’t tell you, you will just have to tune in.
All I will say is that what happens at Christmas divides Union Road forever.

To tune in go to www.xpressionfm.info or iTunes > Radio > College/University > Xpression FM. For more information, ‘like’ our Facebook page (search: Union Road).

To catch up on previous episodes (they’re all great I promise), click here. After the Christmas special, Union Road will return in January 2014… and it just gets bigger and bigger!

Graham Eveleigh, creator and writer of Union Road

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