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Missing out on the way we were

He could have called it Rock 'n' Roll Lane. Or A Farewell to the Glenageary Kings. But Declan Hughes' The Last Summer is no more a story of rock 'n' roll excess than it is a tale of undying love. After all, Geddy Lee and his boys are merely there to give us a sense of timing -- a reason for 17-year-old Paul and his mates to look beyond local scraps and troubling domestic issues.

It's 1977 and the lads are waiting for their Leaving Cert results. They've also got their first gig coming up. After that, it's hello real world, goodbye dry ice and flares. Good thing, then, that the revolving set serves as something of a time machine for its cast. Round and round it goes, where it stops ... actually, we know that much. Thirty years later, when all has been said and done. Tom earned his money; Larry came out; poor Kevin disappeared, and Paul moved to America and wrote a book about 'the group'. But he left out the girl.

Indeed, back in '77, it seems the most important thing in young Paul Taylor (Sam McGovern) and Caroline Brady's (Clare O'Malley) relationship is their quest to find a condom. He does like her, and she may even love him.


But where it gets serious is in 1989 -- an incident we're only allowed to hear about. By the time we catch up with the would-be lovers, 46-year-old Caroline (Cathy Belton) and an older, but by no means wiser, Paul (Declan Conlon) have reconvened a secret affair. And I'm not convinced. Perhaps it's the soap-like dialogue in which the two profess their almighty love. Or a noticeable lack of chemistry between the actors.

What's more, Hughes insists on hammering home the various intricacies of his characters' time periods. In 1977, the boys are almost a caricature of '70s culture and excitement. Thirty years on, there are iPods, complaints about technology, and one too many 'humorous' suggestions of an impending bust. And it gets annoying. But the lads' reunion over a few pints is where the actors really shine, with Gary Lydon (Tom) and Peter Hanly (Larry) on form.

Overall, it's not a bad play, but in much the same way that its various characters discuss what might have been, it's unfortunate that The Last Summer has the distinct feel of a wasted opportunity. HHHII

Running until October 13