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A: Brendan Behan (with Joan Littlewood) Pf: 1958, Dublin Pb: 1981 Tr: 1958; rev. 1962 G: Drama in 3 acts; Irish prose and songs S: Dublin brothel, late 1950s C: 8m, 5f, extrasA Dublin brothel, owned by Monsewer, English-born but now a committed Irish republican, is run by an old IRA comrade, Pat, with the help of an older whore Meg Dillon. The place is full of odd characters from the lower depths of Dublin society: a gospel-singing social worker, two homosexuals, a couple of prostitutes, and a maidservant from the country Teresa. An IRA man is due to be hanged for terrorist activity, and fellow Volunteers kidnap a British soldier Leslie in the North and hide him as a hostage in the brothel. Far from being frightened, Leslie joins in the fun and sings a song. Teresa falls in love with Leslie, and Miss Gilchrist tries cheering him up by reading him a newspaper article about the royal family. After Leslie and Teresa have jumped into bed together, he discovers a report in the paper about his predicament and begins to be concerned. The inhabitants of the brothel also worry that the likeable Leslie will be executed by the IRA. In a sudden police raid Leslie is shot and killed. As Teresa weeps over his body, Leslie sits up and sings ‘The bells of hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling’.

A: Brendan Behan (with Joan Littlewood) Pf: 1958, Dublin Pb: 1981 Tr: 1958; rev. 1962 G: Drama in 3 acts; Irish prose and songs S: Dublin brothel, late 1950s C: 8m, 5f, extras

Originally performed in Gaelic as a realistic piece, Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop transformed the script into a light-hearted romp with song and dance, which was so successful that it transferred to London's West End. Here it was lapped up by middle-class audiences, who could giggle at quaint Irish politics, quaint Irish queers, and quaint Irish folk, without suffering any of the discomfiture experienced in Behan's one other completed play The Quare Fellow.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Brendan Behan (1923—1964) writer


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