Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Classic yarn still packs a punch

Barefoot colleens and good-for-nothing blatherers share the spotlight with aristocrats in Boucicault's Colleen Bawn, which drew audiences in their droves when it was first staged in the 1860s.

You'd think that Oirish stereotypes would have vanished along with the owners of the big houses – but Druid's new production shows there's still fun to be had with old familiars.

Director Garry Hynes has taken this classic melodrama and given it a polish, with a splash of pathos. The plot is based on a real murder case in Co Clare, where a landed gent attempted to free himself from his marriage to a peasant to remarry into money.

Boucicault is kinder to his leading man, Hardress Cregan (Marty Rea). He wishes away his wife Eily (Kelly McAuley) in thought rather than in deed, so that he might marry his wealthy cousin Anne (Aisling O'Sullivan) and avoid financial ruin.

But Cregan's servant, the crippled boatman Danny (Aaron Monaghan), is determined to do what's necessary to make his master happy, and sets out to drown the Colleen Bawn.

Remarkably, a play packed with poitin, priests and peasants has more to say to us than we might expect.

GRANIA MCFADDEN

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