A wonderfully uplifting and joyous night of nostalgia and community singing last night at the Richmond Theatre last night. A full house for the marvellous tribute to the legendary folk band The Dubliners by Ged Graham , Danny Muldoon, Billy Barton, Paddy Ryan and Conor Elliot. Over the course of two hours the story of the Dubliners is brilliantly told by song, narration and set design. The set is a recreation of O’Donohue’s bar in Dublin in the back room of which “The Dubliners” first performed. A simple wooden bar with crates of Guinness and 5bar stools wonderfully evokes 1960s Dublin. On the large screen behind the stage are reflected images of Dublin – the Half Penny Bridge, O’Connell Street, Trinity College, the GPO, scenes from sessions inside O’Donohue’s – are all projected throughout the evening to bring alive once again Dublin as it was before the banks and the multinationals tore it up. For anyone who knew Dublin back in the good old days, this show is a powerfully emotional evening bringing about, for me anyway, waves of nostalgia and emotion recollected in sound and image.
There are some great numbers to be savoured – The Irish Rover, Finnegan’s Wake, MacAlpines Fusiliers, The Black Velvet Band, Molly Malone, Seven Drunken Nights – but for me the emotional keystone of the show is the ballard “The Town I loved So Well”. The audience was, I suspect, like me 2nd Generation of Irish descent and it is the sad fact of emigration, the fact that millions of Irish people had no alternative but to leave their country, that defines our relationship with Ireland. Between 1950 and 1960, 800,000 people left for Britain in a country of 2.8 million! Thus the emotional power and psychological truth of “The Town I loved So Well” is really the crux of the experience and rightly the centrepiece of the evening. In a bravura solo performance, Ged Graham shows an astonishing vocal range and power to not only sing the number, but to stop half way through to narrate the death of lead singer Luke Kelly the original band member whose death, at only 44 years of age was such a blow to both The Dubliners and Irish music.
The original band was all male and O’Donohue’s bar in the 1960s was all male so it was wonderful to see that more than 50% of last night’s audience were women. The changes in Ireland in the past 20 years have been nothing short of astonishing. It has gone from a catholic theocracy to a liberal democracy almost overnight. And a good thing too. But the sense of identity forged in those hard years of poverty and censorship (RTE banned Seven Drunken Nights from the radio such was the power of the Catholic church), produced The Dubliners and some wonderful songs.
If you want to catch a sense of Ireland and Irish musical culture as it was in the “rare ol days “ then get a ticket for this brilliant show.