The rank is a taxi rank at Dublin airport where a bunch of losers and small time criminals fiddle their days away in between not doing very much. Playwright Robert Massey’s father has been driving Dublin taxis for thirty years, so I hope none of his colleagues feel vaguely libelled.
They’re more likely to object to how gormless they come across in Jim Culleton’s slow-moving production for new Irish writers’ company Fishamble, who premiered the play at this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s way off the pace of a David Mamet heist drama like American Buffalo, or August Wilson’s Jitney which also looked at life in the car hire business.
There are five characters; three of them taxi drivers, all of them in hock to Bryan Murray’s casino-owning small-time crook Jackie Farrell. Farrell’s masterminded an armed robbery that has gone badly wrong and wants George (Eamonn Hunt) and his son-in-law, sullen, overweight Carl (Alan King) to pick up the money bag in a field at Tullamore at dead of night.
It takes an age to get to this point, and the plot twists thereafter are not exactly riveting, either. Massey captures the background mood of shady deals, dodgy nightclubs and a second-rate Dublin underworld that is the downside of the European economic transformation far more successfully. There’s one great speech of disaffection with village life on the edge of the city. Even the petrol station doesn’t help out the cabbies.
Farrell’s latest business venture is a telephone sex chat line with girls called “Kylie” and “Britney”. Britney has a serious stammer, which keeps the guys hanging on for half an hour; she’s now the star turn. Carl, whose weight has shot up since his wife died, owes Jackie three grand and is in deep trouble with other debts. Farrell’s brainless body-building son Fred (Luke Griffin) organises the late-night cabs for the girls; and his wife is being “seen to” by Carl’s hairy mate “Two in the Bush” (John Lynn).
There’s a bit of unpleasant violence: Carl gets his shins bashed in with a cricket bat, and Jackie offers “Bush” a close shave with a Stanley knife. Blaithin Sheerin’s rudimentary design transforms the breeze blocked airport exterior with gilt chairs for Jackie’s manse and ugly drapes for the fateful field; this sums up the awkwardness of the whole shebang.