The Last Return – Gate Theatre – Review

The Last Return – Gate Theatre – Review
by Gearóid O’Byrne

Druid – The Last Return – by Sonya Kelly

Venue – Gate Theatre
Preview(s) – 13 Oct
Date(s): Runs until Saturday, November 12th 2022

Photos by Ste Murray.

The curtain opens onto the brightly lit vestibule of a modern theatre. A ticket booth in the centre advertises tickets in French, English and German. A middle-aged man sits reading a newspaper. A young woman enters, approaches the ticket desk and enquires about tickets for the evening’s performance. The performance, the last of the run, is sold out. But wait, if she is prepared to queue, she may succeed in getting return tickets for the evening’s performance!  And so our story begins.

What is it about queueing that brings out the best and the worst in people, no matter what race or culture they are from? As Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield recently found out, there are rules to queueing and if they’re broken, there are consequences! As the characters enter the lobby of the theatre, they each describe what has brought them there and, as the action progresses, they reveal just how far they are prepared to go to obtain a ticket for the evening’s performance.

This Druid production has already done the rounds of the festivals! It started life as part of the Galway International Arts Festival, where it was well received. It next travelled to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it won a Scotsman Fringe First Award. It has now found a home at the Dublin Theatre Festival, with the run now extended to the 12th of November.

The play is written by Sonya Kelly whose previous works include a number of pieces about her own life including The Wheelchair on my Face and How to Keep an Alien. Last year, her play Once Upon a Bridge marked quite a change in her style, as the play focused on a serious event, with a near-death on Putney Bridge in London. In one sense, this work is a return to more familiar ground, as it is a comedy focusing on manners and unwritten rules of etiquette.

This is an entertaining piece that holds up a mirror to us all as to how we would behave in a similar situation. Does the end justify the means? Just how far would you go to achieve a similar goal? As we discover, some are willing to go unexpectedly far indeed! There is some very amusing writing in the script which is excellently delivered by the cast.

The play starts with a subtle style of humour, with some polite conversation and occasional barbed comments between the Newspaper Man (Bosco Hogan) and the Umbrella Woman (Rebecca O’Mara). The two tell the reasons behind their search for a ticket, both linked to their careers. The Newspaper Man is a University professor who is worried about losing his current position and Bosco Hogan plays him as a stuffy and self-absorbed man, but ultimately quite a decent character. Rebecca O’Mara is the highlight of the show with her performance as the Umbrella Woman. The reason behind her hunt for a ticket is that she has been passed over for promotion as her boss loved the production! Tonight, she will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of seeing it. Anna Healy has a small role as the Ticket Person, but makes the most of it with her casual indifference to her customers who fight over the tickets. The cast is filled out by Fionn Ó Loingsigh as the Military Man and Naima Swaleh as the Woman in Pink.

As the play progresses, and one character literally parachutes in, matters descend into farce with the story of the Woman in Pink an unexpectedly serious interpolation into the otherwise comic scenario. As the curtains close we see a happy ending as unlikely as anything we have seen to date. While the concept is slight, Sonya Kelly makes the most of it with the early sections of the script particularly strong. Director Sara Joyce does justice to the source material and the pace is kept high throughout. It is rare to see a comedy on the stage in Dublin today, so this is a chance to sit back and enjoy yourself!

Cast and Creative Team
Cast includes Anna Healy, Bosco Hogan, Fionn Ó Loingsigh, Rebecca O’Mara and Naima Swaleh
Director: Sara Joyce
Set and Costume Design: Francis O’Connor
Lighting Design: Amy Mae
Sound Design and Composition: Michael John McCarthy
Movement: Jessica and Megan Kennedy (Junk Ensemble)
Dramatherapy: Wabriya King
Hair and Make-Up: Gráinne Coughlan
Associate Costume Designer: Clíodhna Hallissey
Assistant Director: Katie O’Halloran

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