Last Orders At The Dockside – Abbey Theatre – Review
23 September – 26 October 2019
Photos by Ros Kavanagh
An Abbey Theatre production commissioned by Dublin Port
The year is 1980 and it is the night of Luke’s funeral. He was a docker for many years but in more recent times was diagnosed with lung cancer and his death is something of a blessing for his family who watched him fade away over many months. We get to meet his wife Maisie (Bríd Ní Neachtain), his son Alfie (Anthony Brophy) along with his extended family and friends as they celebrate his life. The night is a special occasion for a couple of other reasons also, the first being it is the last night of the Dockside bar, which is closing its doors for good! The final reason is that an unknown singer by the name of Johnny Logan is participating in the Eurovision song contest with his song ‘What’s another year’!
This is a new piece by writer Dermot Bolger and director Graham McLaren, the same team that brought Ulysses to the Abbey stage in recent times. The play was commissioned by Dublin Port, and it explores many aspects of the people who worked there. We hear about the Union battles and strikes, smuggling and also the hardship of their lives. Despite the production being a commission, there is no attempt to idealise the docks, instead we get a collection of workers struggling to make a living in difficult economic times.
The piece is an ensemble work with fourteen actors on stage. There is also an unusual choice as the majority of the cast perform at least one song. While Lisa Lambe is well known as a singer, many of the other performers are less adept, but it is actually quite refreshing to hear actors without trained voices sing on stage.
The only downside of this production is that it is nearly three hours long and it does struggle to hold your attention throughout. The plot is a series of vignettes as each member of the cast has their own story to tell. It would have been easy to remove some of the sprawling elements of the plot to reduce the running time, but it does help to show the wide spectrum of those that worked there.
Maisie (Bríd Ní Neachtain) is the matriarch of the family and it all revolves around her in some fashion. She is deeply emotional on the day she buried her husband with frequent outbursts! The other characters are given almost equal time, as we hear conversations on different sides of the stage. There is a hint of melodrama with the character of Macker (Terry O’Neill), a local drug dealer, which doesn’t sit well with the other plot lines. Perhaps it was felt the tales of love and financial hardship were not substantial enough, but the play may have worked better without. The actors do a good job of bringing life to the various characters. Stephen Jones brings some depth to the part of Chris, the younger brother desperately trying to emerge from his brothers’ shadow. Lisa Lambe plays Cathy, a young woman who gave up on her career and education far too young and now yearns for something more. The piece is very evocative of its time and captures the period nicely, due to the costumes and stage design (both by Alyson Cummins). The play is not without its flaws, but there is more than enough to entertain here with the multitude of strands and ideas on display.
Amy: Éabha Brady, Millie Brady, Abbie McEvoy
Alfie: Anthony Brophy
Lyn: Juliette Crosbie
Chris: Stephen Jones
Sean: Aidan Kelly
Cathy: Lisa Lambe
Maisie: Bríd Ní Neachtain
Macker: Terry O’Neill
Ray: Jimmy Smallhorne
Ensemble Musician: Bill Bergin
Ensemble Musician: Mike Brookfield
Ensemble Musician: Aindrias de Staic
Ensemble Musician/ Band Leader: Wayne Sheehy
Ensemble Musician/ Barman: George Murphy
Writer: Dermot Bolger
Director: Graham McLaren
Movement Director: Vicki Manderson
Set and Costume: Alyson Cummins
Lighting Design: Paul Keogan
Composer: Ray Harman
Sound Design: Matt Padden
Voice Director: Andrea Ainsworth
Casting: Maureen Hughes and Sarah Jones
Dramaturg: Louise Stephens
Dramaturgical Support: Jesse Weaver