One of the most notorious episodes of Irish history is brilliantly re-imagined as a hilarious and delightful comedy as Paddy Martin’s ingenious production of Dion Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn opens at Athlone Little Theatre on Sunday, April 19.
A glorious and whimsical send up of everything from social conventions to romance itself, The Colleen Bawn is a show which literally has something for everyone.
Hardress Cregan has a problem. He’s a dashing man about town and member of the landed gentry, and he’s supposed to marry the rich and hilariously bossy Anne Chute, thus saving his home and mother from the sweaty paws of evil lawyer Corrigan.
The problem is that Hardress is already married, to a beautiful but uneducated peasant girl named Eily, who has desperate problems with proper pronunciation.
If he doesn’t get rid of Eily, he faces utter ruin, and what if Anne finds out about the Colleen Bawn?
Zany and hilarious, Paddy Martin’s production of Boucicault’s Irish classic is replete with hilarious misunderstandings, ingenious special effects and sparkling performances by a gallery of charming Irish rogues.
Hardress is played by John McGlynn, star of numerous smash hit musicals and plays, including The Brothers Malone, The Field, and Plaza Suite.
The adorable Eily, who continues to worship Hardress even when presented with almost proof that he’s just tried to bump her off, is played by Deirdre Flynn, who delighted audiences with her local debut in the Little Theatre’s smash hit production of One for the Road, by Willy Russell.
The play is actually based on one of the most shocking episodes of 19th Century Irish history. The original, real life Colleen Bawn was an unfortunate young lady named Ellen Hanley, whose secret marriage to feckless upper class scion John Scanlan ended in tragedy when Scanlan’s servant, Stephan Sullivan, murdered her.
The case captured the public imagination in a way unprecedented at the time.
Boucicault’s play, essentially a light hearted romp with a happy ending grafted on, was just one of many responses to the story by later writers.
The Athlone version of the show is part Blackadder, part Gilbert and Sullivan, a merry send up of just about everything which is certain to delight audiences.
Paddy has assembled a team of the Little Theatre’s most talented names to take on this most challenging and enjoyable of productions.
Anne is played by Mary Geoghegan, who recently enchanted audiences in Moate with her performance in Joseph O’ Connor’s ‘Red Roses and Petrol.’
The slimy Corrigan is played with glorious malevolence by the legendary Harry Smith, while Anne Hoey brings her divine talents to the role of Mrs Cregan.
Along the way, audiences will also meet a host of unforgettable characters, from poitin swilling renegade Myles na Capaleen (Jason Gill), to Father Tom (John Donnelly), the thundering whiskey priest with a heart of gold.
In Boucicault’s play, Scanlan’s evil servant becomes Danny Mann, who takes it upon himself to smooth the way for his master by getting rid of Eily. This part is played with real menace by Ronan Flynn, one of the theatre’s most talented new discoveries.
Sheelah, the mother of Danny, is played by the always delightful Olive Martin, while John Elliott makes a most welcome return to the stage as Kyrle Daly, the friend of Hardress who is secretly in love with the wonderful Anne.
Part romp, part satire, entirely great fun, The Colleen Bawn is replete with ingenious touches from director Paddy Martin.
It is certain to offer one of the most enjoyable nights at the theatre for many a year.
Blink and you’ll miss something in between all the laughter.
This hilarious production opens at the Little Theatre, St Mary’s Place, on Sunday April 19 running until the following Friday April 24, with curtain up at 8.30pm.
Bookings can be had by calling (090) 6474324, and early booking is most definitely a good idea.