Blue Thunder: Stephen Jones features in new BBC Radio drama

By Aideen O'Flaherty

Three men from the west of Ireland take centre stage in a new BBC radio drama called ‘Blue Thunder’, which features Tallaght actor and playwright Stephen Jones, who has appeared in ‘Dublin Oldschool’, ‘Into the Badlands’ and ‘Love/Hate’, playing the role of Dara.

The gripping drama, written by Padraic Walsh, takes a look at small-town Ireland, weaving humour and emotive moments throughout.

Stephen in TG4 Production of Avenger Ghaoth Dobhair 1

Stephen in TG4 Production of Avenger Ghaoth Dobhair

For Stephen, who grew up in Glenview and attended Tallaght Community School, the radio drama gave him something to look forward to as a lot of his theatre work had to be postponed as a result of the pandemic, and he was initially meant to record ‘Blue Thunder’ in London last March.

The skilled arts professional took some time out to tell The Echo about what it was like to record his part for ‘Blue Thunder’ at home, what the past few months have been like for him, and how he believes there has been a renewed appreciation for the role of the arts since the pandemic started.

What is the plot of ‘Blue Thunder’?

‘Blue Thunder’ is the story of three men from the west of Ireland, a father called Brian (played by Gary Lilburn) and his two sons, Ray (played by Paul Reid) and Dara, who is played by myself. Dara and Ray are drunk and things are all about to kick off in Brian’s taxi van.

It’s 3am and my character is determined to get his brother to help him with something that could land them both in trouble.

As the story develops the trio have to confront their relationship and it becomes a reflection on manhood, mental health and a splintered family in small-town Ireland.

It’s really funny but there’s a beautiful sadness to it as well. Each character’s life isn’t going to plan and, whether they like it or not, they are all they have.

Stephen Jones 1 1

Tallaght Actor Stephen Jones

What is your character, Dara, like?

My character Dara is loud and angry, and frustrated with life, but under the surface he is someone who is struggling to articulate the heartbreak he is feeling.

You grow to love the three characters over the course of the play. It’s a brilliant script by writer Padraic Walsh, a real slice of life.

How did your involvement in it come about?

I just got a call from my agent to say the BBC were interested in me playing a role in a new radio drama. I never actually asked why they wanted me specifically, but I think that the writer had seen my work here in Ireland and one of the producers had seen me perform in a show called ‘Class’ at The Bush Theatre in London. It’s always a bonus when someone sees you in something and then remembers you for a role in the future.

What was it like for you to record your part at home?

We were originally due to record the play in London in March. I was just arriving into Dublin Airport to fly over when I got a call telling me they had to postpone.

Thankfully a few months later we were able to record from our separate homes across Ireland and the UK.

I built myself a nice homemade bunker, with a sofa standing up and lots of pillows and duvets to dull the sound, and tried to make it as close to a studio feel as possible. It wasn’t ideal for anyone, but with good quality microphones it was just brilliant to be able to work on something for a few days.

What has it been like for you, as an actor and playwright, during the past few months?

It has been difficult, as it has for a lot of people. Nobody likes getting phone calls coming in to say that work they have scheduled is cancelled. Particularly disappointing for me was a summer run of ‘Juno and The Paycock’ at The Olympia and the cancellation of my own plays ‘From Eden’ and ‘Northern Lights’, which were due to run at The Peacock Theatre in a few weeks.

Looking at the bigger picture though I have been lucky as I have filmed a few days on several projects which began filming in the last few weeks in Dublin and I spent a few weeks in Galway working on a very interesting docu-drama for TG4 about The Phoenix Park Murders, which should be released next year.

I was also kept busy with some writing commissions that came in so I spent the first lockdown focusing on my writing, which can be hard to do when my time is split between that and acting.

Do you think people appreciate the arts more with everything that’s going on at the moment?

I think that people do have a renewed appreciation for the arts and are starting to see how vital they are, not just for entertainment purposes but for the deep connections made between performers and audiences.

The arts can entertain for an hour, which is great, but sometimes they can change people’s lives, they can help us understand the world around us and the human condition.

Without the arts, we live a less rich life, and if we don’t support them, all we do is damage the soul of our towns, cities and country.

‘Blue Thunder’ will air on BBC Radio 4 on Friday, November 20, at 2.15pm and will be available to listen to on the BBC Radio 4 Drama website following the broadcast.

For further information about Stephen’s work, visit www.stephenjonesactor.com.

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