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Future's bright for Northern Ireland actor Stefan Dunbar

Ahead of his new play's NI-wide run, Enniskillen actor on his newfound respect for showbands, and heeding career advice of his uncle Adrian

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Actor Stefan Dunbar (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

Actor Stefan Dunbar (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar

Stefan Dunbar in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar and Karen Hawthorne in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar and Karen Hawthorne in Keep Telling Me Lies

Actor Stefan Dunbar (Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX)

Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar's nephew Stefan says his parents chose his unusual Christian name because they didn't want to give him a moniker that sounded 'too Catholic'.

Now the 30-year-old from Enniskillen is following in his uncle's footsteps, starring in a bittersweet play Keep Telling Me Lies, which recalls the heyday of the Northern Ireland showbands, and kicks off a province-wide tour in his hometown on Tuesday, March 24.

Stefan adds his uncle, who is currently filming the latest series of Line of Duty in Belfast, is proud he's inherited the Dunbar acting gene and will be in the audience when the show plays Belfast's Lyric Theatre over several dates in April.

Keep Telling Me Lies is a timeless story of love and betrayal set against the backdrop of The Floral Hall, written by Brenda Winter-Palmer and developed by Antoinette Morelli, who also stars in the production.

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Stefan Dunbar and Karen Hawthorne in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar and Karen Hawthorne in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar and Karen Hawthorne in Keep Telling Me Lies

Due to the great success of the show's premier last May, it's set to tour venues all over Northern Ireland until April.

Belfast actress Antoinette (44), who has starred in Hollywood movies and hit TV shows, created the show which is based on her parents' very different memories of the musical heyday when her dad was living a showbiz lifestyle as a band member while her mother struggled to make ends meet at home.

Stefan caught the acting bug at school before studying drama in London and returning to Belfast where he is now based, on the advice of his uncle Adrian (61).

"I've been very lucky in that I understand the industry more than other actors," he said. "Uncle Adie would guide me at times and told me to go back to Belfast after I finished drama school in London."

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Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar

But the talented performer knows he has to stand on his own two feet. "You have to do these things on your own, you have to go out and make your own name.

"We have a good relationship the two of us," he added. "He's in town at the minute doing Line of Duty so we'll have to get a catch up and see a movie, but he's so busy working all the time and so am I.

"He'll call up to the Lyric and see the show. He usually turns up to most of my shows and is very supportive."

The tight-knit Dunbar clan have always had Stefan's back, even when it came to naming him.

"My mother Laura is from a mixed background so she chose Stefan because she liked the name, whereas my father Liam didn't want to give me a Catholic name at the time," he explained.

"He preferred to call me Stefan which was more neutral, so that's really where it came from."

And he believes Northern Ireland actors like his uncle are blazing a trail for the local accent on TV shows viewed outside the province, especially since his Line of Duty alter ego, Superintendent Ted Hastings of anti-corruption unit AC-12, has made 'Mother of God' his catchphrase.

"Because my uncle talks in his own accent in Line of Duty and because of shows like Derry Girls, it's not unusual now to hear a Northern Ireland brogue on TV."

Stefan has acted twice with Adrian - or "uncle Adie" - firstly, in a short film Two Angry Men about the late Belfast actor James Ellis and playwright Sam Thompson's bid to stage a controversial play Over the Bridge about sectarianism, and last year in a Dublin-based drama Blood.

"Adie has talked about James and how he took him under his wing as a young actor," said Stefan.

Meanwhile, in Blood, the younger Dunbar had a cameo performance alongside his uncle. "It was great to act with him. You don't fully understand how good he is until you're opposite him, how experienced he is."

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Stefan Dunbar in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan Dunbar in Keep Telling Me Lies

Stefan loved acting since his school days but joked it was more a desire for attention than a family trait. "My first role was playing Jesus in the Stations of the Cross so that was the calling (to acting) really."

During Keep Telling Me Lies, Stefan now has learned about the importance of the showbands here.

"During the 60s they were pop stars," he said. "It was all about the dancing. It was an escape from the Troubles which were in the background, and they didn't want anything to do with it. They played a really important part in Irish history.

"It allowed them to dream and fantasise about other things," he added.

Stefan said the showband members also knew they couldn't let their audience down. "They were disciplined and very passionate about the music and performing in front of people.

"While they were famous pop stars they didn't have much money - they toured around Ireland.

"But they knew they had to be in a certain place on time because people loved them."

Tickets are now on sale from theatre box offices:

  • Tuesday March 24, The Ardhowen, Enniskillen
  • Wednesday March 25, Theatre at The Mill, Newtownabbey
  • Friday March 27, Millennium Forum, Derry
  • Saturday March 28, The Braid, Ballymena
  • Wednesday April 1, Island Hall, Lagan Valley Island Lisburn
  • Thursday April 2, Market Place Theatre, Armagh
  • Friday April 3, Strule Arts Centre, Omagh
  • Saturday April 4, Riverside Theatre, Coleraine
  • Tuesday April 7 to Sunday April 12, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, shows Tues to Sat 7.30pm, Sat and Sun 2.30pm
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