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Borstal Boy – Gaiety Theatre – Review

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Borstal Boy runs at the Gaiety Theatre until Oct 11th.

A young Brendan Behan travels to Liverpool with the makings of a bomb in his case, complete with dynamite. He is working for the IRA, and is a fresh faced juvenile of 17. He takes lodgings in a house and almost as soon as he sets down his case, the police arrive to arrest him. And so begins the story of a young Irish man facing into the English judicial system. He is too young to go to jail, so he ends up at a Borstal. In these surroundings, he meets other young troubled men, the majority of them from England. It opens his eyes to world around him and changes his perspective from a narrow minded republican view to something far wider.

There are two Brendan Behans in this play. One is the younger man who is experiencing the events first hand, and is played by Peter Coonan. The older writer looking back at the events and sharing his whimsical and irreverent opinions is Gary Lydon. This production has a massive cast with 37 actors involved. They are all used well and there are many crowd scenes where the stage is flooded with actors giving a vast scale to the proceedings. There are some familiar faces amongst the crowd with Darragh Kelly catching the eye as an Italian priest.

The stage is very impressive with a massive panel moved around the set to create a screen for the variety of projections. The scenes change quickly from the outside world to the inside of a cell, and this production captures them all admirably. Prison walls descend from above,  street scenes, canteens and workrooms appear in the blink of an eye. It is all handled with a degree of style and easy competence which shows the level of rehearsal involved.

For those looking for a gritty piece of theatre exposing the reality of life in a Borstal, this probably isn’t the place. This is a fast paced production with a lot of laughs and a number of songs and dance sequences along the way. You leave the theatre thinking that life in a Borstal isn’t actually that bad! It is a big and fun production that will no doubt pack them in.

Borstal Boy runs at the Gaiety Theatre until Oct 11th.

Adapted for the Stage by Frank McMahon

Starring –  Peter Coonan (Love/Hate, What Richard Did, Quirke) and Gary Lydon (Calvary, The Guard, War House) as the young and older Brendan Behan.

Tickets from €24.50 including booking fee go on sale Friday 20 June 2014 from Ticketmaster outlets and The Gaiety Theatre box office.

Directed by Conall Morrison

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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