AT: The Twisting of Another Rope A: Brendan Behan Pf: 1954, Dublin Pb: 1956 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Corridor and yard of a Dublin prison, 1950s C: 22mPrisoners discuss the fate of two fellow inmates: one, who killed his wife, has been reprieved, while another, the ‘Quare (= “queer”) Fellow’, who savagely murdered his brother with a meat chopper, is to be hanged. The reprieved murderer is depressed at the thought of life imprisonment and later tries to hang himself, but the old prisoner Dunlavin assures him that it is better than hanging, which he describes with relish. An examiner from the Justice Department perfunctorily checks on the welfare of the prisoners. That evening the prisoners exercise in the yard where the grave has been dug for the Quare Fellow's body. Regan, a kindly old warder, briefs a young warder on the execution, and the hangman arrives. The following morning the hanging takes place offstage, and the prisoners emit ‘ferocious howling’. A body is carried in by the warders, but it is not that of the Quare Fellow but of the young warder, who fainted as the man was hanged. Regan tosses the hanged man's letters into the grave, and the prisoners scramble for them, intending to sell them to the Sunday papers.
AT: The Twisting of Another Rope A: Brendan Behan Pf: 1954, Dublin Pb: 1956 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Corridor and yard of a Dublin prison, 1950s C: 22m
Two years before Osborne's Look Back in Anger caused a stir in the British theatre by representing a world outside the gentility of middle-class drawing rooms, Behan had mounted this powerful naturalistic attack on state institutions, although it became widely known only through Joan Littlewood's 1956 production with the Theatre Workshop. Based on Behan's own experiences of prison in England and Ireland, the piece combines humour with dramatic focus (the events take place within 24 hours, and the central figure of the Quare Fellow is never seen).