JOE goes to the theatre: The Last Summer
JOE doesn’t go to the theatre too often. This cultural ineptitude is something we needed to readdress so we decided to head along to the theatre and take in a show.
By Declan Whooley
Our first port of call was The Last Summer in the Gate Theatre. Our knowledge of on-stage drama is pretty limited, but the snazzy programme told us that the play is a “bitter-sweet comedy by playwright Declan Hughes that focuses on a group of friends for two days during two summers thirty years apart.” Sounded interesting to us.
It is August 1977 and four friends from Dublin are just a week away from their Leaving Cert results. Paul, Tom, Larry and Kevin are eagerly looking forward to their debut gig together at the school disco, as they close one chapter and look forward to whatever life has in store for them.
There are however some distractions. Paul is falling for the gorgeous Caroline Brady; Kevin has a very difficult family life and there’s some trouble abrewing with the menacing Glasthule boys.
Fast forward thirty years and we find Paul returning from America as the gang look to commemorate the memory of Kevin, their dear friend who went missing after that disco all those years ago. We see that there have been huge changes in each of their lives, as you would expect three decades later. Larry is happily married to a man called Bruno, Tom is struggling as the financial crisis begins to worsen – though he does point out that the “fundamentals are stable”.
He is now married to Caroline, and one aspect that hasn’t changed are the feelings between Caroline and Paul. Both are married with children, but we witness the characters as they wrestle with their emotions and try to do what is best.
It is a reflection of our tastes that even though the cast have a glittering array of stage and TV experience, we instantly recognised Clare O’Malley – who plays the role of a young Caroline and also Michelle Groves, Caroline’s present day daughter. A quick scan of the programme and we were reminded that Clare was a backing singer to Jedward in this year’s Eurovision Song contest in Azerbaijan. Probably the two most dramatic performers around.
The second half of the play is particularly enthralling as we’re drawn into the characters and their hopes, dreams and insecurities. Caroline Belton delivers a majestic performance as a torn wife, with Declan Conlon playing the role of an adult Paul struggling to differentiate between love and lust.
Other notable performances come from Gary Lydon, Kevin Shackleton and Clare O’Malley, in a film that will take you from side-splitting humour to sadness in mere moments.
The play is great for all those looking for a nostalgic 70’s trip down memory lane, with the sound-track, clothes and issues of the day coming to the fore. The efforts to get a packet of condoms are hilarious and the emigration was just as hot a topic as it is today.
All in all it was a good night’s entertainment, with the partial nudity from the character of Caroline Brady a pleasant surprise.
The only negative from the evening was in fact nothing to do with the play itself, but the failure of some members of the audience to switch off their phones, or at the very least put them on silent. You would think that two announcements would have been enough for people to heed. Evidently not.
Now that that we have set the ball rolling, JOE has got the taste for the dramatic world and we look forward to the next performance in earnest.
The Last Summer is currently showing Monday to Saturday with tickets ranging from €15 to €35. For more information on the play click here.