(Sara Keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/10.)
It receives a revival next week at the New Theatre, in Temple Bar in Dublin, in a production directed by Ronan Wilmot that pays tribute to the pioneering work of the Pike Theatre in staging the work for the first time, in 1954.
The Quare Fellow was Behan’s first stage play, and it premiered at the tiny 50-seat theatre on Herbert Lane, which was run by Alan Simpson and Carolyn Swift. The Quare Fellow drew on Behan’s experiences in prison, tuning into contemporary political debates about judicial hanging, which was still legal in Ireland and England at the time. But it also marked a radical experiment with the theatrical form. The Quare Fellow of the title, the condemned man, is the central character, but he never appears on stage. Behan himself provided the voice of the unseen prisoner who can be heard singing throughout the play (“And that old triangle / Went jingle jangle / Along the banks of the Royal Canal”).
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