Radio Ulster presenter Joe Lindsay will be stepping out of his studio and onto the stage tonight when he makes his acting debut.
But it will be familiar surroundings for the Belfast man, who is taking on the role of an acerbic radio host in the critically-acclaimed Talk Radio as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Joe plays the central character Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s cult classic. Champlain is the host of Night Talk, a talk radio show in Cleveland, Ohio. Callers to his show air their problems and prejudices as he puts them down with derogatory remarks and caustic cut-offs.
But presenter and DJ Joe says there are no comparisons between his character and any of Northern Ireland’s own radio hosts.
“I did a lot of research into the role and found YouTube particularly helpful in that respect,” he said.
“I read up about guys like Howard Stern and Morton Downey Jnr, who was mad and used to get up and punch his guests. That type of format spawned the Jerry Springer Show.
“But there’s no reference at all to any radio hosts in Northern Ireland, it’s a period piece set in the 1980s in Cleveland.”
Though not a fan of talk radio shows — they tend to exacerbate problems rather than solving them, says Joe — he finds the character fascinating to play.
He said: “You couldn’t like Barry, he’s despicable and he hates himself. I feel more sorry for him than anything. He’s the exact opposite of me. While I’m passionate Barry is just angry — angry, embittered and twisted. But I must admit, being able to let rip like that on stage is very cathartic.”
Joe’s wife Mary encouraged him to take on the role and she directs him in the production. A few years ago Mary set up Skewiff Theatre Company with actress friends Moninne Dargan and Emma McErlean who also feature in Talk Radio. Joe said: “We were talking one night and Mary asked me to name the one role I would love to do if I ever got the chance to act. I said Talk Radio. I’d seen the movie and had got the script and thought it was brilliant. Next thing I knew she came and told me that she’d spoken to Sean Kelly of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and the production had been booked.”
Joe said his acting inexperience meant he was finding it difficult to switch his character off. “Mary has to say to me sometimes ‘OK Barry, time to stop’, but it’s difficult to put him out of my head. I am really nervous about it but excited too. I’m like a boxer about to go into the ring. I’m very focused and excited, but I want to emerge triumphant. I’m just chomping at the bit now.”
Talk Radio runs from tonight until Thursday at the Oh Yeah! Music Centre. For tickets ring the box office on 028 90246609.