1 JUNE 1956, Page 17

THE QUAKE FELLOW. By Brendan Behan. (Theatre Royal, Stratford.) FOR

trying forcibly to impress the English with the logic of Irish republicanism, Brendan Behan spent eight years in various prisons. He does not, in The Quare Fellow, observe his fellow lags with quite the compassionate intensity that O'Casey had for his fellow tenement-dwellers; but, writing from the inside, he achieves a remarkable sense of intimacy and immediacy in his stage ballad of Mountjoy Jail. From the start, the audience is won over; and that is half the battle. And if the other half is lost, it is not entirely Behan's fault. His Irish idiom is untranslatable into the English of Statford and Bowe.

The first act of The Quare Fellow, rambling though it is, is held together by Maxwell Shaw's performance as Dunlavin—near to the author's idiom. In the second act, unfortu- nately, Dunlavin is incapacitated by over- indulgence in meths; and his place is taken' by a music-hall class of a character. Tension relaxes, and the last act does not quite pull it together again—partly owing to an extra- ordinary decision to play the Irish national anthem in the middle. This meant on the first night that one section of the audience stood, wondering whether it ought to be sitting, and another section sat, wondering whether it ought to be standing: not the best way to lead up to the play's dramatic climax, the hanging of the Quare Fellow.

Still, basically The Quare Fellow is good theatre. It needs a mbre consistent cast; who can have permitted a Teddy boy in Mountjoy Jail, with his quiff uncut? Visually the pro- duction is good, but many of the actors could not be heard from the pit—partly the theatre's fault: it is full of noises. I would be inclined to suspend judgement until seeing the play done by en Irish cast. if it is, I hope the author will play a speaking, instead of merely a singing, part. His curtain speech suggests he would be good.

B. 1.