By Dion Boucicault. Directed by John McColgan, starring Adrian Dunbar, Don Wycherley, Hadley Fraser and Fiona O'Shaughnessy. The Abbey Theatre, Dublin until 31 July.

With a burst of fireworks and an ensemble dance, 'The Shaughraun' establishes itself as a crowd-pleasing production from the drawing of the curtain.

The dancing itself is not quite as expansive or as strictly choreographed as in John McColgan's previous production, the world-conquering 'Riverdance', but it nevertheless injects a sense of comedy and personality that sets the tone for the play.

'The Shaughraun', meaning vagabond, or 'blaggard' as the eponymous character describes himself on stage, is a boisterous, effusive work written by a Dublin-born man with the distinctly un-Irish sounding name of Dion Boucicault.

It draws comedy and melodrama from sending up the social, political and cultural mores of Irish society at the time, with a cast of caricatures that boom and bluster their way through a complex plot that teases with twists as much as it delights with humour.

The ensemble is led by Conn 'The Shaughraun' himself (Adrian Dunbar), who relishes in recounting tall tales and puncturing the dialogue with witty aphorisms that give the play its funniest lines.

He is joined by an unscrupulous landlord with an affected rasp that Don Wycherley delights in intoning, a didactic priest thunderingly voiced by Des Cave and an English guard (Hadley Fraser) that is supposed to be the voice of sanity among the crazy Irish but ends up exclaiming frustratedly, "I can't act," to much laughter towards the end.

However, the biggest laugh of the evening is reserved for the play's only non-human character, the dog Tatters, who threatens to steal the show more than once.

The action opens in an unnamed corner of County Sligo, where the guard has come to visit a remote cottage and encounters a maid (Fiona O'Shaughnessy) churning butter.

Beginning in this scene with themes of sexual repression and Irish hostility towards the English oppressors, 'The Shaughraun' proceeds to shake down every Irish cliché you can think of.

To name a few, it features a disastrous experience of emigration, religious dominance, an Irish mammy with an Irish mammy's boy old enough to know better, a rural community that almost falls asunder in a bitter row about a piece of land, and, of course, a wake that is as farcical as it is drunken.

The production marries Boucicault's populist script with McColgan's taste for the spectacular by using slapstick violence, pyrotechnic flourishes and creative set changes, which see the characters split their time between the stage floor, the rafters and the aisles.

'The Shaughraun's' particular brand of humour is certain of tickling home audiences spending their long summer evenings at the Abbey, but whether this romp will go on to global success like 'Riverdance' did will depend on whether audiences outside Ireland find it too Oirish or just Oirish enough.

Bill Lehane