Upcoming play Dog DLA Afternoon a Belfast-set farce with a social message

Dundonald comedy writer Stephen Large's latest play Dog DLA Afternoon comes to Belfast's Baby Grand Studio this month

NORN Iron humour reigns supreme in Stephen Large's new comedy drama as two wannabe freedom fighters from the Dundonald Liberation Army (the DLA) mistakenly hold up a food bank, instead of a bank.

Founder of the satirical website Dundonald Liberation Army, Large has contributed to a number of BBC comedy projects for radio and television, including the sitcom Soft Border Patrol and most recently BBC Radio Ulster's A Perforated Ulster.

Dog DLA Afternoon is Large's third stage play and follows the success of Three's a Shroud, which took a wry look at the world of death and undertakers.

Large says the play is "loosely based" on the 1970s movie Dog Day Afternoon starring Al Pacino about a bank robbery gone wrong. It features a couple of "thick as champ paramilitaries" – Dave ‘The Venezuelan’ Taylor and John ‘Crazy Horse’ McCracken – "who plan to rob a bank as a show of strength to raise much-needed funds to help liberate Dundonald".

The heist goes wrong when they manage to select Manna Food Bank as their unknowing target. Holed up with tins of chicken soup and Tayto cheese and onion rather than dosh, the pair enter a tense stand-off with the PSNI, making international headlines. With a heavily pregnant hostage and intervention from the US president, the action hurtles towards an explosive conclusion.

Among the laughs, the play highlights a number of social and economic issues; one of which being how, in 2019, food banks are now part of our society.

"In Dundonald itself two former banks have closed down and have been replaced by food banks, which more than 2,000 families per year make use of. When you think that our MLAs have been on paid leave for two years, when these families are reliant on charitable donations it's both sad and astonishing," says Large.

Although thoroughly enjoying "engineering something for live audiences", Large is also working on his first screenplay, Normal Lives.

"It is set in Belfast in 1998 – an era of dance music, ecstasy and the Good Friday Agreement. You have this group of teens enjoying a hedonistic experience and a group of guys being released from prison. Amongst the groups are a nephew and a uncle who tries to convince him not to repeat the mistakes of the past," he explains.

Dog DLA Afternoon is directed by Tony Devlin, with a cast including Matthew Forsythe, Matthew McElhinney, Antoinette Morelli and Karen Hawthorne.

:: Dog DLA Afternoon runs at Baby Grand Studio, Grand Opera House, Belfast, October 21 to November 2. Tickets via People attending the show are asked to make a donation of a tin of food (including cat and dog food) to be passed on to food banks.

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