City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Boat Factory Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 03 August 2012

Boat Factory - Fringe 2012
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Phillip Crawford (director), Chris Warner (composer), Malcolm Smith (production manager) Lisa-Marie Cooke (stage manager)
Dan Gordon, Michael Condron

It’s a cracker, for sure. Although that sums up the achievement that is ‘The Boat Factory’, there’s more to be said of this remarkable piece of theatre which pays tribute to the workforce which wove Harland and Wolff’s shipyard into the fabric of Belfast life for longer than their individual lives or those of the ships they built.

Dan Gordon’s script lovingly recreates the cadences and rhythms of Belfast speech and shipyard life as Gordon himself and Michael Condron as two joiner’s apprentices (and, it sometimes feels, the entire workforce of Harland and Wolff) take us on a journey through a lost world of slowly acquired skills and quickly made workplace friendships.

For all the undoubted skill of both actors, it’s the ‘Boat Factory’ itself which dominates this production, and rightly so, given its prominence and importance in the lives of so many Belfast citizens, both as a source of employment and income, but also a source of pride, in the work itself and in its place in the life of the city.

Gordon’s shy laddie and Condron’s cheeky budding auto-didact are a joy to observe, their performances as finely honed and maintained as the tools in a craftsman’s cabinet. Although the statistics and the extracts from carpenter’s manuals sometimes fly as thick and fast as rivets in a plater’s shop, they never hold up the action, and while the politics of the play are clear, they are the more powerful for never being explicitly stated.

It’s a remarkable achievement to believably build a satisfying picture of a time and place through words and movement alone, but Gordon and Condron achieve this with deceptive ease. The Boat Factory feels as solid as anything which ever went down a slipway.

As the fictitious captain of a vessel Harland and Wolff would never have deigned to build might have put it; ‘Chust Sublime’. Catch yersels on and get along to Hill Street Theatre. You won’t have wasted your time or your money.

Show times: til 26 Aug, 6.30pm

TIcket prices: £5 (today's preview), £9-£13


 Although only two highly accomplished actors onstage, at times it seemed the stage was full of amazing and memorable characters.  This was a beautifully staged and crafted play that 'ticks all the boxes' (history, comedy, pathos) and will stay in your memory for a long time after you leave the theatre. Highly recommended.