A large dose of lockdown laughs as comedian's Dundonald Liberation Army freedom fighters return – Belfast Telegraph

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Dundonald playwright’s hapless heroes are back… and struggling with absurdity of the ‘new normal’
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Matthew McElhinney and Matthew Forsythe as John 'Horse' McCracken and Davy 'The Venezuelan' Taylor
Stephen Large
Dundonald Liberation Army
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Playwright and comedian Stephen Large says it’s time to laugh at lockdown as his hapless Dundonald Liberation Army (DLA) freedom fighters take the stage hostage once more.
Funnyman Large (40), a proud son of Dundonald, created the DLA in the wake of the area moving from Belfast into Lisburn and Castlereagh after council boundaries were redrawn in 2015.
The satirical Facebook has page gathered more than 80,000 followers and has since spawned two books and three theatre productions.
In their latest adventure, John ‘Horse’ McCracken and Davy ‘The Venezuelan’ Taylor, played by Matthew Forsythe and Matthew McElhinney, grapple with the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
As the show begins at The MAC in Belfast this week, Stephen told Sunday Life he wanted people to laugh at the way they behaved in those strange early days of the pandemic.
“I just want everyone to sit back and relive the lockdowns by taking the p*** out of ourselves and how we behaved,” he said.
“I observed so much during the pandemic — isolation and people’s reaction to it all, like shaving their heads or panic buying toilet rolls within a week.
“I thought it would be really good to do something on it and I hope audiences get a good laugh out of it.
“It also gets stuck into the government’s handling of things — Boris and the lockdown parties, for example — but you have to approach it quite sensitively.
“It’s not ‘loads of people died let’s all have a laugh about it’ — it’s very much the behaviour of people during the time.
“For example, within a week my Facebook news feed looked like a Grindr for Hare Krishnas because all the fellas I know had shaved their heads.
“People were queuing up to get into the Spar and the shop assistant was calling people ‘d***heads’ for not following a one-way system while an old fella was cracking up about having to wipe his a*** with kitchen roll. It was madness.
“I actually caught it five days before Christmas and had to isolate.
“My mum and dad had to feed me Christmas dinner through the letterbox.
“It’s going to be fun, but it’s not punching down. It’s more about exploring human behaviours. It lampoons the best and worst of ourselves.
“I think it’s good to have that light relief, but at the same time, there is a serious side to a lot of it.”
Stephen has worked with actors Matthew McElhinney and Matthew Forsythe throughout the trials and tribulations of the DLA and is now proud to call them friends.
He told Sunday Life: “The two of them have really great chemistry and bounce off each other so well. It’s so easy to write for them because I can actually visualise them performing the lines.”
As a comedy writer, Stephen has come up BBC sketches which have gathered more than 95 million views online. He also works as a satirist for the cheeky betting firm Paddy Power.
“I write some of their sports content, lampooning breaking sports stories, which is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as a Manchester United fan, it has broken my heart having to write about them so much,” he said.
“Writing an article every Sunday about how sh**e Man United are has become my job. I really enjoy it, but I wish that I had done it 10 years ago when Liverpool were crap — it would’ve been much more fun.”
The prolific writer is also working on a movie about the rave scene in 1990s Belfast called Normal Lives, which is currently in pre-production.
He said frustrating delays to the film caused by the pandemic were expressed in Lockdown DLA, adding: “Everything was hurtling along with Normal Lives during February 2020 and then the pandemic hit and nothing happened for about a year-and-a-half, so I’ve picked that up again.
“Covid-19 really slowed us down and I suppose my frustration with that comes out in a lot of Lockdown DLA.
“It’s moving along, but the wheels are turning slowly. Recently I branched out into stand-up as well, so I’ve been making initial steps with that.”
Lockdown DLA is on at The MAC theatre in Belfast from Wednesday to Sunday. Tickets are available from the venue’s website
Sunday Life

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