With curtain up fast approaching to Vote DLA the endearing tale of Dundonald Liberation Army’s fight to overthrow the clutches of Lisburn and Castlereagh’s annexation of their Shire-like community existence – if Tolkien’s Shire had casual sex and drug references, half-arsed and half-hearted armed robbery attempts and a vocabulary fit for Borstal? Playwright and stand-up comic Stephen G Large chats to Culture Crush NI about the show, plans for after, his forays into the world of stand-up comedy, why getting a movie moving takes so damn long, and his long-term writing goals.
CC: This is the last instalment of the DLA series, surely you must be sad to see the end of it?
SGL: “Yeah, it’s been an amazing journey. I love the characters and everyone that’s been involved with it. I’ve been dealing with the two Matthews – McElhinney and Forsythe – for quite a few years now and we’ve built up to what’s beyond a working relationship. I’d like to think we’ve built up friendships, well, that’s my interpretation of it, they might tell you otherwise.
“It started off as a Facebook page, and out of that came a book. Then on to the stage. There has been a radio spin-off, videos for BBC Comedy and now the Grand Opera House.
“They got married, divorced, had kids and so on and noweverything will be tied up. I just don’t see where it can go from there. Saying that Foster and Allen has their first ‘farewell’ tour in 1908, so never say ‘never’.
“I think it’s time for me to move on. I’m not going to abandon it. I’m going to keep the Facebook page because I really enjoy writing the satire aspect of it and satirising current events, but the next thing I write, whether it be for stage, television or radio, or whatever else, I want it to be a fresh challenge.”
CC; Knowing it was going to be the last instalment did you feel a bit wistful or nostalgic writing the script?
SGL: “Yes, it’s something I created from scratch and it’s been one hell of a ride. But when you look at social media now and Tiktok or whatever and people’s attention span being 20 seconds, it’s amazing that the DLA’s popularity has been sustained. The DLA has been going since 2015 which is a long time in the internet where things are popular for 25 minutes. I want to do something else. I just don’t know what that is yet.
CC: You must be working on something?
SGL: “I’ve recently been getting into the stand-up thing, I’ve only been doing it for about a year, so I really want to challenge my energy into that and see where it goes. That’s my main focus at the minute. Obviously I’m tied up this Grand Opera House run, I’ve also got the movie thing we discussed previously [Normal Lives from an interview from 2019 that can be viewed here: https://culturecrushniblog.com/2019/10/09/stephen-g-large-the-big-interview/}. The pandemic was an absolute spanner in the works with that.
“I’ve got a new Dublin based production company on board now, they’ll be meeting at the BAFTAs to discuss that. The whole production side of movies is a ridiculously slow process and patience has never been a super power of mine, but the cogs are slowly turning in the background and occasionally I’ll ask ‘where are we at?’ but it’s just a painfully slow process.
“This show Vote DLA is a Herculean task. It’s a massive production and I’m really enjoying it but once it’s over I’ll be channelling all my energy into stand-up.”
CC: Where can people go to see you doing the stand-up?
SGL: “I’m mainly trying to get minutes under my belt at the minute. I’ve been at the Pavilion, I’ve done the Sunflower Bar. The other night I was at East Belfast Laughs which is in an old church at the interface between the Albert Bridge Road and the Short Strand.
“A couple of weeks ago I made my debut at The Empire. For a fledgling stand-up career, if you could call it that, that was a fairly big step up. It seemingly went well as they said they’d have me back. It’s all baby-steps but I’m really enjoying it”
CC: What’s the difference between writing a 10 minute stand-up routine and writing a 90 minute script for the theatre?
SGL: “They’re two different things, but the end result is the same. To hear a packed theatre laughing at something you’ve written or to hear a comedy audience laugh at a joke you’ve just delivered, there’s no better feeling on the planet.”
CC: So, you’ve got the movie, and now the stand-up, where do you want to see yourself in 10 years time?
SGL: “If I’d a dream about stand-up it would be to sell out a decent sized local venue. In terms of the stage, another crack at the Grand Opera House would be nice.
“But it’s all about spinning those plates. I think of you spread yourself too thin you’re not giving any one thing the attention, and more importantly, the respect, it deserves. You can end up trying to be a master of all trades and not being master of any of them.”
CC: And finally, what can people expect from Vote DLA at the Opera House in June?
SGL: “In the show Davy and Horse put their super-soakers away and enter into local politics. It’s a scathing satire of the political situation here, past and present, and a few nods to Trump. We look at paramilitarism, WAG culture and social media. It was in danger of getting a bit ‘cock heavy’ so we’ve cast Jo Donnelly who’s going to be playing multiple roles. She’ll be playing a politician who’ll be wrangling Davy and she also plays Horse’s wife, so we’ll be getting a look into his home life. Jo is just fantastic and I just can’t wait to see her and all the other characters come to life.
“We had a read through a couple of weeks ago with the cast and crew, and a couple reps from the Grand Opera House, including the chief executive, and we’re all of the opinion that this is the best thing we’ve ever done.
“If you like local humour and aren’t easily offended, I guarantee you’ll absolutely love this show.!
Vote DLA will run at Belfast’s Grand Opera House from Tuesday June 13th to Saturday June 17th.
For booking details visit http://www.goh.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02890 241919.
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