Monday, 2 May 2016

Les Dennis in "Down the Dock Road"

McKenna (Andrew Schofield) confronts Granddad (Les Dennis) in Alan Bleasdale's powerful play.

I had a superb time a couple of weeks ago watching actor Les Dennis in a new version of Alan Bleasdale's Down the Dock Road. When the original version debuted forty years ago, Dennis starred as the young security guard assigned to watch over the motley crew of waterfront workers. He was so taken with the script he bought the rights from Bleasdale, and now has co-produced with him this new incarnation where he (Dennis) plays the Granddad character.

The play depicts the lives of men working on the docks in Liverpool. Each has an ambition he is trying to fulfil, including Mickey (Daniel Taylor) who imagines himself escaping this life of hard graft by auditioning for a TV talent show, and the appropriately nicknamed Mastermind (Paul Duckworth) who laments the lack of a decent education and wonders if he may enrol in college as a mature student. One can't help feeling that neither gentleman will ever reach their goal. Union man McKenna (Andrew Schofield) is the centre of the piece, he being framed by big shot and ex-policeman Marley (Conrad Nelson) so as to gain total control of his little empire. But one feels the wind of change blowing across the stage as the play unfolds; it's a story of changing eras and what happens to people when the old ways are abandoned. It is also a tale of corruption, from the humble labourer to foremen, police constables, to high ranking politicians.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. There are plenty of laughs, and it's obvious Bleasdale's is the same pen that would later give us Yosser Hughes and the television series Boys From the Black Stuff.

All the actors shine, the play being perfectly cast, but the final scene is owned by Les Dennis and Andrew Schofield, who put in an emotionally powerful last moment. I can do nothing but praise the set design and Hannah Chissick's direction.

Down the Dock Road played from March 11th to April 9th, 2016, at Liverpool's Royal Court theatre, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it ended up touring the UK. If it does, you must go and see it!