Meet the Quare Fellow – Viking Theatre – Review


Meet the Quare Fellow – Viking Theatre – Review by Frank L.

Written by Peter and Jim Sheridan

Directed by Peter Sheridan

Peter and Jim Sheridan acknowledge “the device of younger/older Behan” was created by Frank McMahon which they use as the central conceit in “Meet the Quare Fellow”. McMahon was commissioned to adapt Brendan Behan’s 1958 book, Borstal Boy, for the stage by the Abbey in the 1960s. The title of  the play implies that the Sheridans are familiar with the Quare Fella, in other words Behan, and the audience is less so. All three of them were brought up in the inner city on the North side of Dublin. However Behan died in 1964 when they were barely teenagers. This inner city geographical gene pool between the three coupled with the reverence they have for Behan as a human is what they choose to share with their audience.

Gary Cooke plays the old Behan and Ryan Andrews plays the young one. The device works well as the irrational bravado of the young Behan carrying a bomb on a boat to England manifests itself in his later years with the reckless disregard, through drink, of his health. And yet in this cavalier existence, Behan found the time and discipline to write. He lived in a contradictory way. The Sheridans use the writings to tell the various contradictions which are central to Behan and in particular his sense of being imprisoned in the world in which he found himself.

Cooke and Andrews also play a number of other parts. Andrew Murray plays a multitudinous number of small parts of both sexes using minimal props to effect the changes. The three actors operate like a well-oiled piece of machinery as they reveal Behan in all his complexity. At times the Peter Sheridan’s direction is ingenious as when a mugging is portrayed by the use of a bodhran. The scene radiated violence but it did not take place as such on the stage but in the mind of the audience… a fine piece of theatre.

Anyone wishing to understand Behan a little bit better will find food for thought in this play. For those who are not familiar with his work but at most his rowdy reputation, will find this play a means of “shaking his hand”, of making a new friend, having been introduced by the Sheridan brothers.

Meet The Quare Fellow
May 3 – 21
Written by Jim and Peter Sheridan
Directed by Peter Sheridan
Starring Gary Cooke, Ryan Andrews  & Andrew Murray
Seats €15
Extracts from Confessions of An Irish Rebel, Borstal Boy (adapted by Frank McMahon), and The Quare Fellow by kind permission of the Behan/McMahon estates’.

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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