Killing with The Colleen Bawn

August 28, 2010

I took my roommate, Ayako, to see a play at the Temple Bar Project Arts Centre called The Colleen Bawn (which loosely translates as beautiful blonde girl). I had no idea what it was going to be about, but considering the long history of good Irish theatre, felt compelled to see something while in Dublin and was itching to get out of the house on a Friday evening.

The Colleen Bawn is a melodrama written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault in the 19th century. It was first performed in New York in 1860 and so definitely had dated notions of comedy, suspense, and propriety. That being said, the players did a wonderful job with the material given, considering how ridiculously melodramatic plays of that time could be.

To sum up (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Hardress Cregan and his mother have fallen on hard times. His mother tries to persuade Hardress to marry the wealthy Anne Chute. He agrees, although he is already secretly married to Eily O'Connor, a beautiful fair-haired girl (in Irish cailín bán or colleen bawn) who has many admirers including the roguish Myles-na-Coppaleen. Anne, seeing Hardress with Eily one night, mistakes him for her lover, Kyrle Daly, and, angry at Kyrle, she agrees to marry Hardress. Hardress's servant, the hunchback Danny Mann, offers to murder Eily so that Hardress will be free to marry Anne. Thinking that Hardress has agreed, he takes Eily to the lake where he attempts to drown her, but he is discovered and shot by Myles-na-Coppaleen. At the wedding of Hardress and Anne the police come to arrest Hardress for the murder of Eily, but before he is taken away Eily appears. Hardress is released, Eily is accepted by Mrs. Cregan, Anne and Kyrle are reconciled and Anne offers to pay off the Cregans' debt.
This was based on the true story Ellen Scanlan who at 15 was married to John Scanlan, but when his family refused to recognize the marriage, he persuaded his servant kill her. The servant took her out to the River Shannon in County Clare where he killed her with his gun, stripped her, and weighted her down with a stone before tossing her in the river. After her body washed ashore, Scanlan was arrested for murder, tried, and hanged at Gallows Green.

After the play, we grabbed dinner at the delicious Eden and walked the streets of Temple Bar. There we saw an Australian offering a rather intriguing outdoor amusement. He had a bicycle in which he had reversed the handlebars, so when the rider turned right, the bike went left and vice versa. The Australian had laid out a carpet over the rugged cobblestone street, and charged 4 euro for people to ride the bike roughly 8 feet. For those successful, he would give 40 euro. Every ten minutes or so the Aussie would jump on the bike and ride in circles effortlessly. Of course, when anyone else tried it, they couldn't ride the bike more than a foot before awkwardly stopping or crashing to the cobblestone. But considering the amount of drunken revelers at any given moment in Temple Bar, it was the perfect scam. We watched for about 45 minutes as patron after patron tried to master the reverse bicycle before being humbly thrown to the ground. We estimate in less than an hour, the Aussie had made over 100 euros and had a line of brave, inebriated souls still behind him.

For your amusement, here is a small sample: