BWW Review: LAST ORDERS AT THE DOCKSIDE at The Abbey Theatre
A Unique Breed
1980. The Dublin docklands. Family and friends gather at their local pub after the funeral of their beloved patriarch, a prominent and well-respected docker.
The gathering is timely as they are inadvertently the final patrons of the establishment. The following morning the pub is due for demolition. Caught in the flurry of Ireland's massive social and economic reform, the docker families gather to mourn the passing of a soul, a pub and their entire way of life.
Nowadays the Dublin docklands are promoted as a lively neighborhood of smart offices, interactive museums, state-of-the-art conference centers and eclectic dining. Last Orders at the Dockside respectfully rewinds to the rich and colorful history of yesteryear when a tightly-knit community of docker families lived, worked and made merry on the very same stretch of land.
Each character in this play has their own variegated backstory. As they gather to reminisce they also grapple with their unknown future. In the rapidly changing landscape do they relinquish traditions and adapt or do they make the bold decision to start anew elsewhere?
Last Orders at the Dockside subscribed to a holy trinity of Irish Theatre - a funeral, a pub and soul-stirring music. The seasoned cast of 8 were accompanied by 5 jovial musicians and a child actress. Playwright Dermot Bolger does honour the memories of the dockland families. The dockers were a unique breed of strong, sharp and hardworking men. The audience is privy to an intimate study of the realities, hardships, joys and sorrows of life on the docklands. Interspersing the poignant conversations are entertaining interludes of song and dance from an impressively musical cast, headlined by the lovely Lisa Lambe (Cathy).
Bríd Ní Neachtain (Maisie) gives a moving performance as the recent widow wondering where her years of duty will now take her. Anthony Brophy is compelling as Maisie's son and Cathy's husband - Alfie, mentally wrestling with honor, duty and love. Amy is Maisie's feisty young grand-daughter (played on alternating nights by Èabha Brady, Millie Brady and Abbie McEvoy.) Steadfast and stalwart son-in-law, Sean (Aidan Kelly), is ready to relinquish his father's legacy and flee the coop as his brother Chris (Stephen Jones) struggles to hold on to his new love, Lyn (Juliette Crosbie). Terry O'Neill is suitably vile as the morally corrupt Macker. Ray (Jimmy Smallhorne) solidly rounds out the cast as the enigmatic family friend who emigrated decades earlier.
Although I thought the pace might have benefited from a shorter overall duration, I was entertained and enlightened by this stirring dockland wake. Enjoy a rich slice of Irish history.
Last Orders at the Dockside runs at the Abbey Theatre until October 26th, 2019