THE MEN in the audience were outnumbered four or five to one but no matter. For most of the female audience gathered to see The Colleen Bawn at Glin Castle, only one man mattered, film-star Dominic West.
And they weren’t disappointed. With his opening “Dia dhaoibh”, he had the gathering in the palm of his hand.
Dressed in period costume, and looking rakishly handsome, Dominic, star of The Affair, The Wire, Les Misérables, took on the role of the 24th Knight of Glin, a man “regarded with great affection in the area” and known locally as Ridire na mBan, the Ladies’ Knight. The women cheered at that.
But there the ribald humour ended.
As narrator of the tragic story of Ellen Hanly, Dominic played it straight in what was a very straight-forward and sensitive retelling of the Colleen Bawn, 200 years to the day after her body was washed up on the Clare coast.
Using music and dance to heighten the drama, the story unfolded in cameo scenes, culminating in stirring courtroom scenes where Master John Scanlon, the man who seduced the innocent Ellen, and his man servant Stephen Sullivan who carried out the murder, were condemned to death.
The performance, which runs before another capacity crowd again this evening, was intended to mark the 200th anniversary of this “compelling story of romance, betrayal and murder.”
It is, Dominic West commented, a tragic romance which has captivated imaginations all over the world for two centuries.
“The Cailín Bán, the pure innocent girl, exploited and murdered by the loathsome John Scanlon, is central to the mythology of this area, for it was right her in Glin that she was last seen alive,” he said.
“My wife’s forebear, the 24th Knight of Glin, John Fraunceis Fitzgerald, was the magistrate who sent Scanlon to the gallows and I’m extremely proud to be playing him in this exciting new production by the Abha Bhán and Glin Players.”
When the final bows had been taken, Dominic West paid tribute to the cast and crew who had made it possible. “You are the best audience,” he said to cheers.
Still in costume, he morphed into the showman, pulling the winning tickets for the raffle. And although the raffle came with valuable prizes, it was undoubtedly the kiss on the cheek bestowed on each winner that was the real prize for all the winners. Imagine, Dominic mused, there was no male winner.
Glin Development Association is the overall winner as it stands to raise tens of thousands of euro from the venture which will help develop a visitor centre in the village.