Saturday 21 April 2018

Review: The Colleen Bawn

Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Liz Fitzgibbon and Ian Lloyd Anderson in a scene from The Colleen Bawn. Photo: Richard Gilligan
Liz Fitzgibbon and Ian Lloyd Anderson in a scene from The Colleen Bawn. Photo: Richard Gilligan

The Colleen Bawn Project Arts Centre, Dublin John McKeown

THERE'S certainly a lot of fun to be had by actors and audience in some of the characters of Dion Boucicault's 1860 melodrama.

There's the dastardly local magistrate Mr Corrigan (Ciaran Taylor) out to get his hands on the estate of proud Mrs Cregan (Karen Ardiff).

There's the twistedly servile Danny Mann (Michael Glenn Murphy), crippled as a result of being thrown from a cliff by Mrs Cregan's son Hardress (Ian-Lloyd Anderson), but devoted to him nonetheless.

Then there's the morally flexible, whiskey drinking priest Father Tom (Ian Lloyd Anderson). However, when the cast aren't consciously -- and enjoyably -- hamming it up, things feel fairly flat and thin.

The central problem is that Jimmy Fay's production serves to increasingly wildly highlight the more obvious, farcical elements of the play, leaving the more sober dramatic areas awkwardly in the shade.

There's a scene when Danny Mann confesses murder to the priest, surely meant to be one of the serious scenes, but Mr Corrigan is comically under the table taking notes, and Danny's terror is riddled with hilarity.

A group of characters at farcical cross-purposes with each other has limited mileage, and after the first hour of this two hour production I found the artfully constructed misunderstandings and confusion very tiresome.

Particularly when the plot escalates crazily toward resolution and the actors in double roles signalling their own quick-change antics.

Admittedly, Boucicault's approach to theatre, ramming together comedy, drama, thriller and farce, is hard to disentangle, and it's puzzling why anyone would bother.

Elegantly staged and designed, and however initially funny, this has the feel of a theatrical curiosity, a museum piece with 10,000 volts through it, but leaving little behind but a shower of sparks.

Irish Independent

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