Thursday, July 22, 2010

Theatre: The Colleen Bawn

For the sake of fairness I should point out that this post is based on a preview of the play, not the final production.

The latest play to open in Project Arts Centre on East Essex Street in Temple Bar is 'The Colleen Bawn'. Written in the 19th century, the play is (loosely) inspired by the tragic tale of Ellen Hanley, the Colleen Bawn.

Set in rural Ireland in the early 1800s, it's the story of an Ascendancy family's attempts to avoid financial ruin. The right marriage could solve their problem - but inevitably love, self-interest and confusion complicate matters.

So is it any good, and would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, and yes.

The most impressive aspect of the performance was the vocals. Wow! A wonderful range of Irish accents were used; and as several of the actors played two characters they had ample opportunity to show off their vocal talents.

The actors were clearly enjoying the performance - this was particularly evident during a scene involving singing and dancing, and also towards the very end of the show. I don't mean that they broke character, simply that they were enthusiastic, and (I assume) pleased with how their first preview showing went.

The character motivations are generally good. With one exception, all the major characters are given the chance to put forward their perspective: it's easy to sympathise with them. They do what they do for coherent, sensible reasons. Only one character lacks this depth and is just a "bad guy".

I have a two minor criticisms, neither of which would stop me recommending the play. Firstly, at one point a strong blue light was angled in such a way that it shone into the audience. Secondly, I felt at one point that the Colleen Bawn's singing voice waivered and almost didn't hit the note it was aiming for; but having said that I quite enjoyed the singing.

In summary: tragedy, comedy, good accents, surprisingly complex characterisation and plot, enjoyable, and worth seeing.

The Colleen Bawn runs in the Project Arts Centre until 4th September 2010.

Also on in Project Arts Centre: Oedipus the King.

Photographs below provided by Project Arts Centre.
Himself and herself
Himself and herself, happier

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