The Shaughraun – Smock Alley, Dublin
Writer: Dion Boucicault
Director: Clare Maguire
The Shaughraun is a melodrama by Irish playwright and actor Dion Boucicault. In the small village of Suil-a-beg, County Sligo, mystery, intrigue and drama unfold as a vast range of absurd, exciting and interconnected events set the scene for a night of fun and frivolity. It is difficult to introduce the plot in a few sentences as so much happens, but The Shaughraun is an excellent night’s entertainment and it is a joy to see it being revived at Dublin’s ‘oldest and newest theatre’.
First performed in 1874 the play was an instant success. It was traditional to use pantomimes to address difficult social topics and in a way, Boucicault does the same here. Lack of female autonomy, a housing crisis, intercultural differences, particularly between the British and Irish, bubble underneath the comedy and as director Clare Maguire shows are as relevant today as they were when first penned. As noted in the programme “the melodramatic themes of the play: faith, hope, romantic love and the love of one’s country are set against greed, betrayal, deception, and abuse of power. They are the required themes of melodrama but Boucicault deploys them to cut across national and class boundaries and to give his characters depth and colour”.
One highlight of the play was the relationship between Clare and Captain Molineaux. The attraction is instant however their different backgrounds mean that love doesn’t run smooth. Clare is fierce, defiant and patriotic so it is a surprise when a charming British soldier walks into her life and takes a shine to her. There are many moments of amusement to be found from Captain Molineaux who is consistently bemused by “you Irish” and their different ways. Well acted and drawn out this relationship helps to steer the action, subvert stereotypes and cuts to the heart of the themes of the play.
In future work needs to be done on voice projection and enunciation, to make sure that the Sligo accent (which is well done) does not prevent the listener from taking in every word. This is also true for the singing. Although the musical interludes are enjoyable they would be easier to follow if the actors could project to the back of the theatre. Unusually the characters introduced themselves at the beginning which was a nice touch.
Although arguably old-fashioned The Shaughraun had the audience laughing and brought comedy to the underlying social issues. The Shaughraun is wild, witty (as are the characters!) and fast-paced. Full of twists, turns and surprises, and a good versus evil story line The Shaughraun is farcical and riotous fun with a heart.
Runs until 1 September 2018 | Image: Contributed