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Fine production of dated melodrama

Judy Murphy

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REVIEW – The Colleen Bawn – Druid Theatre

Stage Irishry is to the fore again in Druid’s latest production, Dion Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn, directed by Garry Hynes which opened on Tuesday night in the city’s Black Box Theatre.

The play, which got its first outing on Broadway in 1860, before going on to become the toast of London in the winter of that year, and later wowed Dublin, is based on a true and tragic story from Limerick in 1819, in which a young woman was murdered on her husband’s instructions. But Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn, being a melodrama, has a happy ending, despite a few darker moments.

There’s love between members of different social classes and the problems that brings, confusion as to who is having an affair with whom, issues of money, social status, murder and an abundance of cute Irish hoors.

That this play provoked such hilarity in Victorian London and Dublin less than 13 years after the tragedy of the Great Irish Famine speaks volumes about that particular era. From that point of view, it’s an interesting piece of dramatic history.

But remove it from that context to today’s setting and it’s a pretty fluffy piece of work, for all its enjoyable linguistic gymnastics.

The landed Hardress Cregan (Marty Rea) is in a dilemma, having secretly married a peasant Irish girl, the eponymous Colleen Bawn (Kelly McAuley), an impetuous act which has put his family fortune in jeopardy. Marriage to his wealthy cousin Anne Chute would offer an ideal solution – but she doesn’t know he already has a wife. Besides, her heart belongs elsewhere.

An answer to Hardress’s dilemma is offered by his loyal manservant Danny Mann – played by Aaron Monaghan, who seems destined to be cast as Druid’s resident cripple. Throw in Hardress’s protective mammy, an archetypical Irish priest, an old crone and a few more stock characters for good measure and there’s room for lots of confusion and laughter, as well as one shocked intake of breath.

Druid’s production is terrific with fine performances from its ensemble cast, some of whom double up in roles. Aisling O’Sullivan as Anne Chute, after a rather low-key entrance, is especially good. She huffs and puffs around the stage as the wronged woman and her linguistic acrobatics are fantastic.

Rory Nolan as Myles-na-Coppaleen, the roguish poacher and poitín maker, who turns out to possess both integrity and intelligence, also turns in a fine and funny performance, as does Maeliosa Stafford as the sleeven land agent, Mr Corrigan. 

Francis O’Connor’s modernist set, Ben Ormerod’s intense lighting and an ensemble performing live music add to the experience.

But these lavish production elements – with bells, whistles and shillelaghs – only serve to highlight the fact that this play is one step up from pantomime; if someone had shouted out ‘he’s behind you!’ at certain points, it would have come as no surprise.

There’s no question but this is a fine production. The more salient question is why such energy and resources went into staging this particular drana at a time when theatre could play a more useful and unique role by dramatically – even melodramatically – addressing issues facing contemporary Irish society.

CITY TRIBUNE

Sunday evening concert offers All the Pleasures

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Sunday evening’s concert will be performed by the Resurgam Choir and Irish Baroque Orchestra (pictured), under director Peter Whelan.

Music by George Frederic Handel and Henry Purcell as well as a world premiere by Irish composer Rhona Clarke will feature in Resounding Landscapes, a concert being presented by Music for Galway in association with Galway 2020 this Sunday, November 22. It will be live-streamed from the city’s St Nicholas’ Church, starting at 7pm.

It’s the second concert in the Abendmusik (Evening Music) series of vocal and choral performances, which forms part of Music for Galway’s programme for the European Capital of Culture project.

Sunday’s event will feature Welcome to all the Pleasures by the 17th century composer, Henry Purcell with text by Cristopher Fishburn; the world premiere of Rhona Clarke’s O Vis Aeternitatis – based on writings by the 12th century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen; and Handel’s Dixit Dominus.

The programme will be performed by the Resurgam Choir and Irish Baroque Orchestra (IBO), under director Peter Whelan, who is director of the IBO.

Creator of the Abendmusik Sunday evening concert series, Mark Duley feels that “in our current circumstance, it is good to be reminded by Fishburn in his text that ‘in music, we find relief from sorrow and grief’. And we can salute the venerable building of St Nicholas’ Church where for 700 years music has resounded and prayer has been valid.”

Meanwhile, a scheduled online production of the community opera, Paper Boat, which Music for Galway commissioned to celebrate the 700th anniversary of St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, has been postponed.

Paper Boat is central to Music for Galway’s programme for Galway 2020 and before Covid-19 restrictions, there had been plans for a major live production of the site-specific composition in St Nicholas’ last June.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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Chance to experience Fregoli’s Cross Street as the drama unfolds

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Enid trying to make sense of her life in 'Cross Street.

Fregoli Theatre Company will present a work-in-progress performance of its forthcoming play, Cross Street, on Saturday, November 28.

This virtual reading of their new comedy, written by the company’s co-founder Jarlath Tivnan, offers hints of horror while exploring mental health issues, according to its director Eimear Finan.

The story centres on Enid who’s searching for a new home and finds a place on Cross Street, one of Galway’s most happening spots.

However, she enters a space that’s is already populated by some serious creatures of habit. When Enid’s arrival threatens to disrupt well-worn routines, a house meeting is called to re-establish order. But on this stormy night, other events take over.

Cross Street explores how mental issues can grow and manifest when left to fester, says Eimear. Each of the housemates has an issue: these range from grief, guilt, alcoholism, eating disorders, neglect, self-harm and self-doubt. And each person isolates from anyone who might either interfere or help.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Resourceful Emma gets in step with Zoom during pandemic

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Connemara's heritage features strongly in Emma's sean-nós dance classes and in her Facebook videos.

If you fancy learning sean-nós dancing, now is your chance as renowned dancer Emma O’Sullivan is using technology to put her students through their paces – at home and abroad.

In normal times, the All-Ireland champion can be seen dancing on the junction of Mainguard Street and Cross Street in Galway City.

Emma, from Derryinver, Letterfrack, is a popular figure and videos of her performances have been shared by over 20 million viewers worldwide. Her skills as a sean-nós dance teacher mean she’s in constant demand for classes among children and adults as at home and abroad.

But like so many in the performing arts sector, Emma’s livelihood has been severely affected by the pandemic.

After her regular classes were cancelled in March when lockdown began, she decided to try something new. She complied a 30-minute introductory sean-nós dancing tutorial video, which she uploaded to YouTube.  The feedback was so good, she moved on to classes via Zoom – which her students have since nicknamed ‘zoom-nós’.

This hasn’t been without its challenges, she says.

“There’s so much more to consider. Lighting and audio were a bit difficult, because while Zoom is fine for just chatting, suddenly I needed to talk and play music too.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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