Monday, October 21, 2019

Dog DLA Afternoon – a bank heist goes south as a loyalist faction declares independence from Lisburn (Grand Opera House until Saturday 2 November)

Two comrades from the Dundonald Liberation Army, fighting for independence from Lisburn [spit] Council, bite off more than they can chew when they mistakenly hold up the wrong sort of bank. Sadie is a different type of volunteer, handing out donated tins and household supplies at the food bank. Her heavily pregnant niece is doing the books in the back office and doesn’t need the shock that awaits her when she steps in to find Aunt Sadie tied up as a hostage.

Welcome to Dog DLA Afternoon, inspired by Sidney Lumet’s 1975 Dog Day Afternoon starring Al Pacino, though I’m not sure many of us in the audience could have made the connection. The tense hostage situation results in a lot of shouting before the interval, but Stephen G Large can certainly write comedy, and there’s a tirade of punchlines as the show begins, with director Tony Devlin ensuring that one peel of audience laughter has hardly died away before the next begins.

The brigadier – Davy ‘the Venezuelan’ Taylor – is tough, tattooed and not afraid to wave his gun about. Matthew McElhinney manages his character’s internal stockroom full of secrets and gets a warm “awhhh” from the surprisingly woke audience when Davy admits that he has to “wear a balaclava every day of my life” to hide his true identity.

Under Davy’s command is old mate John ‘Crazy Horse’ McCracken, played by Matthew Forsythe, a weedy fellow who understands that the tooled-up pair are on a mission to raise funds to bring a shipment of guns from Labia. Sexual jokes abound, most of them situationally funnier than they are crass, though the (what seems like a nearly inevitable) gay storyline and gags about ‘trannies’ are less secure parts of the script that at times veer very close to being disrespectful rather than satirical.

Antoinette Morelli takes no prisoners as Sadie, with a commanding on-stage presence while Karen Hawthorne plays her niece – very convincing in labour – as well as a policewoman and a negotiating envoy with an offer to build a wall around Dundonald to keep out the Lisburnians. Unfortunately, both women spend much of the second half off-stage talking through a megaphone as the men’s lonely peril ramps up and the Facebook-obsessed PSNI up the pressure.

Ivan Little pops up with video news reports – some work better than others – while gangsta rap booms out during the interval. The self-reflective moments don’t have quite enough pathos to make up for the lost energy, but in general the Dundonald Liberation Army translates from Facebook to the stage a lot better than Belfast Girls made the transition.

You can catch the madness that is Dog DLA Afternoon in the Grand Opera House until Saturday 2 November. There’s a shopping trolley outside the Baby Grand entrance if you’re attending and would like to make a tinned donation to a local food bank.

No comments: