Those who enjoy food for thought as an appetizer to their midday meal can do no better than placing an order for Lady Augusta’s The Kiltartan Comedies (which could readily boast the guarantee of “belly laugh within the hour or it’s free!”). The pair of slight entertainments (The Rising of the Moon and Spreading the News) are joined at the hip by traditional Irish ballads (mostly rendered by Patrick McManus’ dry, near-raspy tone and excellent diction) that foreshadow and sum up the plight of common citizens around the era of WW I as the seemingly interminable struggle for Home Rule went on.
The timeless notion of, but for the chance of environment and parents, roles (escaped con a.k.a. Ragged Man—McManus and his reward-hungry pursuer, Sergeant—Douglas E. Hughes) would be reversed gets a convincing airing as the pair discover, then reflect upon their common heritage even while perched on a barrel.
The main event then slips into view with a simple set-change-with-a-few-yards-of-fabric courtesy of Deeter Schurig as the good village folk take stage, singing their hearts out to the truly marvellous beat of Jonathan Gould’s hand drum.
The ability of idle minds to pounce on half-heard gossip soon has lives turned upside down. An innocent good deed (returning a forgotten farm implement) quickly morphs into accusations of murder and adultery, the appearance of ghosts and arrests—none of the facts are true, but all sworn to.
Central to the action are the Fallons. Mister (Guy Bannerman—outstanding) brings “forkplay” to the proceedings and becomes a vrai “prick” in the eyes of the missus (Tara Rosling, whose bombastic outrage then acidic verbal revenge is almost the hit of the show—only slightly outdone by Mary Haney’s spot-on caricature of the old and the deaf who’ve nothing left to live for but scandal mongering).
Director Micheline Chevrier has tied the scenes together with astute assurity that only whets the appetite for a larger helping next time out. JWR