Theatre: a new generation takes on the words of Flann O’Brien

‘Thirst (and Other Bits of Flann)’ draws from ‘The Dalkey Archive’ and other stories

Crumbs from the table: Dinner in Mulberry Street is at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

Crumbs from the table: Dinner in Mulberry Street is at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

 

THIRST (AND OTHER BITS OF FLANN)
Abbey Theatre, Peacock stage, Dublin. Previews Dec 18 Opens Dec 19-Jan 5 9pm (Sat mat 3pm) (New Year’s Eve 8pm) €16/€14 abbeytheatre.ie

Commissioned by the Gate Theatre (for the Christmas of 1942), produced now by the Abbey and starring four members of Druid’s ensemble, Thirst looks like something of a Christmas miracle: not quite a collaboration between three of Ireland’s most venerable theatre companies, but carrying the pleasing jingle of their loose association. That may be because everyone would like a piece of one of the nation’s most lucid and ludic writers ever, Flann O’Brien.

The last time Garret Lombard, Aaron Monaghan, Rory Nolan and Marty Rea chose a work to perform together, in Druid’s phenomenal Waiting For Godot, it brought the fresh charge of a new generation ready to lay claim to a long-held property. There may be a similar sensation as they take on the words of Flann O’Brien – or Myles na Gopaleen, or Brian O’Nolan, depending on who’s asking – combining his play Thirst with a selection of other writings drawn from The Dalkey Archive, Drink and Time in Dublin and The Trade in Dublin. The task of putting Flann on stage has long been synonymous with Eamon Morrissey, his well-regarded adapter and performer for more than 40 years, and though writer Alex Johnston and the Blue Raincoat ensemble have both tackled the novels since, the time is ripe for a new investigation of this evergreen comic and subversive imagination.

DINNER ON MULBERRY STREET
Bewley’s Café Theatre, Dublin. Ends Dec 22 1pm €8-€12 bewleyscafetheatre.com

Christmas stories have long been ones of finding comfort or shelter within poverty, from sanctuary in a Bethlehem stable to the unlikely transformation of a miserly man sharing his largesse with hungry orphans. In times such as these, where homelessness and destitution is an unignorable part of Ireland’s Christmas in 2018, Michael James Ford has chosen to adapt an overlooked tale by the 19th-century Irish-American writer Fitz James O’Brien, set in the fourth-storey room of a tumbledown tenement in New York, where life is no fairy tale. “What a funny thing it is to have no money, Agnes!” Dick tells his wife in O’Brien’s short story Duke Humphrey’s Dinner, having now fallen on harder times. Sure, Dick. It must be a hoot.

Directed by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh, the show knows that impoverishment demands ingenuity, a belief proudly shared by both the characters, who must peddle their last possessions to ward off starvation, and the theatre, which is long accustomed to making something out of nothing. Thus a cast of three are called upon to summon up happier memories, donning and swapping characters who hope for salvation to come right around the corner. Such hopes seem unlikely, but not impossible. It is Christmas, after all.

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