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Down the Dock Road at Royal Court, Liverpool – ‘timely and strongly-cast’

Nathan McMullen, Les Dennis and Derek Barr in Down the Dock Road at Royal Court, Liverpool. Photo: Bond Media Nathan McMullen, Les Dennis and Derek Barr in Down the Dock Road at Royal Court, Liverpool. Photo: Bond Media
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This 40th anniversary production of Alan Bleasdale’s comic tragedy is running just 200 yards from the Playhouse Studio, where the work premiered in 1976.

Les Dennis, who saw it then, sought the rights to this revival and plays Granddad, a man working his last day on the docks before retirement. He brings a well-judged balance of strength and tenderness to the part, in which he acts as friend, advisor and confessor to his co-workers.

Andrew Schofield plays the violently outspoken but philosophical McKenna with acid wit, laying on the laughs before cutting the mood like a knife. Above them on deck, Paul Duckworth’s thoughtful Mastermind directs the crane driver and observes the progress below, while setting his sights on a better life.

There are excellent supporting performances from Nathan McMullen and Oliver Farnworth, as well as an understatedly brilliant turn from Michael Ledwich. Derek Barr’s Guy Fawkes smoulders quietly most of the time, setting off occasional sparks, and Daniel Taylor embodies the legendary Liverpool comedian Mickey Finn, for whom the eponymous part was originally written, and who died earlier this month.

Claustrophobically designed, by Foxton, the set a ship’s hold which closes in on the action as the play progresses, this blend of sharp writing and local humour is a perfect fit for the Royal Court. Hannah Chissick’s production takes time to get going but picks up speed in the second act, building up to a deeply emotional conclusion.

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Timely and strongly-cast revival of a witty but poignant early Bleasdale