It’s been ages since I went to see the Sligo based company’s stage version of O’Brien’s somewhat rogue novel. Written straight after the genius that is At Swim Two Birds, O’Brien experienced difficulty securing a publisher after the mediocre reception of At Swim, and O’Brien eventually concocted a ridiculous lie which had the manuscript flying out of the window of his car on a drive one evening, only for the novel to be published posthumously.
While At Swim Two Birds is postmodern and quirky in format and structure, the characters and concepts are the quirky and insane facets of The Third Policeman, so O’Brien’s second novel is probably better suited to a stage adaptation seeing as there is little structural difficulty in the physical staging – it would be interesting to see how the metalepsis is conveyed in a stage adaptation of At Swim.
Anyways – enough of the literary jargon. The Third Policeman on stage is beautiful. It really struck me how well Blue Raincoat managed to take all the visual elements of the novel, such as the stark setting in Ireland’s midlands, as well as the darkness and bleakness. However, there is a very magical element to the production and of course the cyclical theme is well used to keep the momentum up within the play as well as staying true to the character of the bicycle within the novel. In particular, scenes with the characters repeating movements and moving around the large book in a circle really work well.
I was also really struck by the terrific acting, as well as the music which really set the tone of the play. A friend who saw the play hated it and thought it was a bit farcical but I have a suspicion that she may have not read the novel. I think that, although the production is terrific as a stand alone project, having read the novel beforehand and understanding the theories created by the characters along with the general mayhem of the fantastical world created by O’Brien is a plus and you really have to be “into” that sort of thing to really enjoy the play.
Probably not a must for Chekov fans! I’m not so sure that I would even recommend it to The Brother fans, as the characters and humour is very different. The Brother has real “pub” humour, while The Third Policeman is very quirky, however it’s still an excellent adaptation of a wonderful novel!