Stephen G Large Interview | Three’s A Shroud
Waterfront, Belfast • Runs until 21 October 2017
By Conor O’Neill
Currently enjoying a successful run at the Waterfront, Three’s A Shroud’s Stephen G Large, also writer and creator of the Dundonald Liberation Army, gives CultureHUB a few minutes to speak about the play, working with Martin Lynch, future designs on life and of all things, a O’Donnell rap album.
A quick history lesson will enlighten you to the story so far. Carpet production project manager Stephen G Large’s FaceBook page Dundonald Liberation Army has nearly 30,000 followers and is the author of A Dog DLA Afternoon. In May of 2016, he decided to send his first play, Carol’s Christmas, off to those in the business. Brassneck Theatre Company produced the show but the script did prick the imagination of Martin Lynch and they kept in contact…
Stephen goes from there, “Martin said, ‘We like your writing, do you have anything else? Why don’t we capitalise on the momentum of the DLA page’ so we started working on a script for Dog DLA Afternoon and we’d written it, I think there was an issue maybe with the venues, they were a bit apprehensive about it, maybe it was a bit niche? Are only people from Dundonald going to go to this? Which is absolute bollocks because there are only 16,00 people in Dundonald and there are 30,00 people following the page, so that was an absolute nonsense. We put it on the ice and he said ‘What else can we do?’ We had a couple of meetings and kicked some ideas about and out of those discussions Three’s A Shroud was born, which at the time didn’t have a title.”
I ask how he came to the topic of death and funeral directors and was he given free rein? Large answers, “I had brought that up because a close friend had died, he was only 29 and I don’t want to come across as insincere, I mean, I was really upset about it, but you’re just so busy with daily life, you just get on with things so it was sort of therapeutic to stick two fingers up to death, make a joke of it. Martin was keen on the idea but you know Martin’s style and the content of his plays. He was looking at an angle which he thought might appeal to local theatres. You don’t want to become formulaic but at the same time, you have to appreciate the demographic of theatre-goers. There’s no sense in Daniel O’Donnell making a rap album, no-one’s going to buy it, so you have to cater for the audience.”
I ask where does he get his characters from? Those who’ve seen the play will be familiar with Gusty Stitt, Wheelchair Dennis, Spike, the local UVF ‘Community Donations Collector’ and Hornbill Heaney. Are they local Dundonald legends, figments of his imagination, or a mixture of both? Large explains, “The four main characters are based on people I know or combinations of people I know. The secondary characters are just stereotypes forced in there to make people laugh. The ones you just rhymed off there, the Spikes and whatever, they’re just stereotypes, everyone knows people like that. We had to have a big Protestant funeral, I just thought of the most Protestant names I could think of and that’s basically it. It isn’t based on anyone in particular, Gusty Stitt is the amalgamation of the most Protestant name I could come up with.”
As for working with Martin Lynch? “Martin is very forthright. He’s very clear in what he envisages and not afraid to tell you what he thinks in terms of what you present him as a piece of script. If he doesn’t like it he’s not going to pussy-foot around and I think that’s the way to do it.”
Were there occasions when you stood your ground and said, ‘No Martin, I think this works’? Large continues, “Absolutely, he encourages that. He told me that at the beginning. He said this isn’t going to work if you just come in and nod. Maybe, very, very initially you’re so eager to get the show put on you’re afraid of it not going ahead. At the beginning of our meetings, I was sort of a ‘yes man’ but I think he values my opinion and respects the fact that I’m quite vocal now. He’s really good to work with.”
“We come from very different backgrounds. Martin is from a sort of Republican, socialist background, whereas I was born in Ballybeen which is a very Protestant, Unionist area. Plus, there’s 30 years of difference in age. At the same time, we both share the blackest of black sense of humour and there’s a bit of social conscious in our writing.”
And lastly, will Stephen G Large be giving up the day job? “I’d love to write, I want to write predominantly comedy, that’s what I’m aspiring to do. I have three kids and a mortgage to pay, to walk away from a steady source of income and a steady job to chase people television people for pissy sums of money, I just couldn’t be that reckless and selfish to put my family in that sort of position. Until such times were I get a hefty commission, a sitcom or brought on as a writer for an established series and it pays well and I can basically replace the money I’m making at the minute, it’s basically just a juggling act until then.”
Three’s A Shroud runs until October 21 at the Waterfront, Belfast. For booking details visit waterfront.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 235053.