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Musical Review Seven Drunken Nights: The Story of The Dubliners, King’s Theatre Glasgow/Touring

Cliched tribute to 'Ireland's favourite sons' disappoints

IF YOU like your night out filled with a large dollop of saccharine-coated nostalgia, a competent covers band and some cliche-ridden national stereotypes about the Irish, then this may well be the show for you.

Seven Drunken Nights is essentially a musical tribute sewn together with a few scraps of documentary about The Dubliners’ 50-year career, though if you are at all familiar with any of their work it’s unlikely you’ll learn much new.

The musicianship, particularly Conor Elliot on fiddle and Paddy Ryan on banjo, is good but marred by a sound mix that’s a triumph of volume over clarity. There’s a disappointing reliance on a pre-recorded keyboard for the mournful and/or emotional sections and its use to help recreate Luke Kelly’s funeral scene lacks subtlety — the audience doesn’t really need some arpeggio piano to tell them something sad is happening.

Projections of old footage of The Dubliners and Dublin are in the main distracting and at times appear fairly random. The inference that the mere act of showing some old film of the city in the 1960s will get us all longing for the old days is misjudged, as are the national stereotypes on show — there’s a heavy narrative reliance on unsophisticated assertions of how much the Irish like “the craic,” “the drink,” “the Guinness” and “impromptu sessions in the pub,” followed by yet more craic and drink.

On the plus side, the show does serve to remind us of the outstanding Dubliners back catalogue, their hugely significant contribution to folk music and an enduring legacy. The flawed edginess of Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew et al derived from their roots in the working-class communities of their city and its attendant politics, something this production largely glosses over.

It's difficult not to leave wondering if Seven Drunken Nights is how “Ireland’s favourite sons” would want to be remembered.

Tour details: sevendrunkennights.com

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