live Cock-a-Doodle Dandy Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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Was Sean O'Casey really past his best once he'd completed his great trilogy? Or was he the victim of a mixture of short-sightedness and puritanical zeal, the combination of which prevented his 1949 work, Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, being performed in Ireland until as recently as 1975?

On this showing from Andy Arnold's terrier-like Arches Theatre Company, the latter would seem to be true, and was something O'Casey fed into the play like a slow drip of personal bitterness alongside a more universal despair that things could still be this way. All this leavened with enough good humour for it to be one great rumbustious raspberry in the face of the whole creeping pack of whingeing, hypocritical busybodies, terminal, superstitious stick-in-the-muds and thin-lipped moral guardians.

In among the man's world of a Catholic-run Irish small town, Mauthraun the bog-owner fears his prodigal and allegedly wanton daughter Loreleen has become possessed by a "demon bird". Indeed his entire household seems to be infected with the creature's presence, from his new wife Lorna to Marion the sassy servant. Saints preserve us, even the whiskey falls under a spell!

Of course, it's really just the women slipping out from under the macho thumb to explore hitherto unknown boundaries of freedom and self-knowledge. Seen this way, they're unselfconscious libertines on their way to "a better place", and that's one in this lifetime just in case you're wondering. For the men, there's nothing else for it but to call in the quacks (of all persuasions) to deal with their pagan bogeyman, as the exquisitely named Father Domineer strides into town like a fundamentalist bounty-hunter, as if The Exorcist had been made by Sergio Leone.

Arnold's production is yet another example of the ever-increasing Scots fondness for Irish plays of the recent past, suggesting a willingness to learn from the masters who come from a culture so similar, yet so much braver. For all the boisterousness and hearty irreverence on display here, including a spirited performance from Muireann Kelly - who surely should have been playing Loreleen rather than Marion - the first act was rushed, inaudible and full of incessant comic mugging. It's faithful enough, but there's no real invention here to make it anything other than pedestrian, and only a more intense second act full of dark absurdity saved things.

The play itself is actually very Greek in its construction, from the formality of its opening scene to its later eruption of Aristophanes- like bedlam and Dionysiac delight. This ramshackle anarchy strangely harks back to the anything-goes theatre of the 1970s, and makes one wonder what the likes of Ken Campbell would have done with a giant cock costume 20 years ago.

It remains, though, alarmingly contemporary. An over-reliance on spiritual mumbo-jumbo is a dangerous thing, and one we should perhaps be beyond. Sadly, in his brutal embodiment of an anti-intellectual, woman-hating society that lives in terror of progress, Domineer still lurks amongst us.

To 21 July. Booking: 0141-552 4267

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