Tag Archives: Flann O’Brien

Review: The Poor Mouth at The Project Arts Centre

It’s been years since I read an uttering from Flann O’Brien and more’s the pity. With a uniquely Irish, twisted and convulted but so irrestibly lyrical turn of phrase, O’Brien is, despite opinions to the contrary, a unique Irish writer.

Yes, he did follow on from Joyce which was an enormous struggle in itself for any writer not least one who shared the same alma mater and stomping ground with the writer of the world-famous blue books of Eccles, and while I’m not entirely convinced O’Brien did enough to stay away from Joyce, he did carve through a style and niche of his own.

His imaginative meanderings through dark and unknown worlds led by the careful hands of colourful and insightful characters marks a new dawn in postmodern writing for Irish literature. At Swim Two Birds being his most famous novel, other works such as The Third Policeman and An Béal Bocht can boast an enormous amount of literary achievement.

While these quirky pieces of literature have found themselves enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in popularity in recent years; they have also taken to the stage thanks to the impressive and careful work of dramaturge Jocelyn Clarke. Blue Raincoat are currently staging Clarke’s stage adaptation of O’Brien’s novel An Béal Bocht in one of the Sligo company’s newest productions – The Poor Mouth.

Having seen Blue Raincoat’s productions of At Swim Two Birds and The Third Policeman, I thought I knew what I was in for – imaginative staging, energetic performances and complete dedication to appreciating the writing style of Flann O’Brien. I didn’t expect however, for a completely new imagining of a book I thought I had already made my mind up about.

To me, An Béal Bocht is a cleverly constructed parody of the island literature that was prominent during the Celtic Revival era – it’s packed full of lots of fun pastiches of over-enthusiastic gaelgóirs, ignorant peasants and the general misery and hardship we’ve come to expect in plenty of Irish literature. Blue Raincoat keep all this wonderful humour and very astute observations on the ridiculous over-simplified attitudes of the Celtic Revivalists, but also manage to extract the beautiful humanity of the novel’s story. The sadness as well as the uplifting and joyous moments throughout the story are treated with enormous reverence and create extremely poignant moments throughout the production.

The company have never failed to impress me and with a great cast led by the extremely talented Ruth Lehane; The Poor Mouth is both a respectable tribute to Ireland’s greatest postmodern writer as well as a celebration of his wry wit and cruel and unmistakably Irish sense of humour.

Newcomers to O’Brien’s work may find it hard to get used to the long rambling sentences full of clauses and roundabout ways of getting to the point and the production keeps perhaps a little bit too close to the text resulting in quite a lengthy performance, but these minor issues aside The Poor Mouth is well worth the visit to The Project Arts Centre for what, I personally promise will be a clever, creative, moving and most of all, fun production.

Plays until November 24 – more details here >>

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Lazy Is As Lazy Does

I really need to write a new blog post don’t I?!

I will, I’m just very busy….watching box episodes of the Wire, and reading “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” and struggling with InDesign …. and staring into space.

I did go see At Swim Two Birds when it was on in the Project, but I wasn’t as impressed as I had been with The Third Policeman.

I will go and formulate some thoughts, finish off the Wire, complete (badly) my design project and get back to you with something insightful. In the meantime, you can follow my rants on Twitter. Or if you’re looking for something to do, I saw this pretty cool video on YouTube for Absolut Art’s event on at the Chocolate Bar this weekend.

More info on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ABSOLUT.Ireland

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Blue Raincoat’s The Third Policeman Review

After my trip to see Eamon Morrissey’s The Brother, I meant to write up a review of Blue Raincoat’s  The Third Policeman, but stuff happened and I never got around to it.

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!

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