Brendan Behan’s NUJ card and Remington portable no.2 typewriter along with a first edition of ‘The Quare Fellow’ (1954) are on display at the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square. His membership of the union was discussed during a tour by an NUJ group of the graves of writers and other famous people at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin on Sunday.
I am told that Joe Jennings (later CIÉ Press Officer) was his proposer when Behan started writing a weekly column and joined The Irish Press chapel in 1954. I also know that when my father was London Editor of The Irish Press (1954-1962), the playwright had called into the Fleet Street office, probably looking for an advance of some sort.
In May 1956, The Quare Fellow’ opened at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, in a production by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. The play later transferred to the West End. Behan died on March 20th 1964, aged 41.
In May 2011, a play called ‘Brendan at the Chelsea’, written by Behan’s niece, Janet Behan, was the first work to be performed in the Naughton Studio at the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast. The production tells the story of Behan’s residence at New York’s Hotel Chelsea in 1963. It was a critical success and was revived for a tour to the Acorn Theatre in New York in September, before returning to the Lyric in October. Again, it received favourable reviews.
“In Adrian Dunbar’s riveting central performance, Behan plays the stage Irishman to perfection, a song permanently on his lips, his slurring, alcohol-soaked wit delighting a succession of hangers-on with its scathing, self-deprecating observations.” (‘The Stage’)
Starting tonight, the play has moved to the Project Arts Centre in Behan’s native Dublin and will run for five nights until Saturday. More information can be found here.
Adrian Dunbar plays Brendan Behan in this warm and funny drama of an Irish national treasure. It is 1960s New York in the legendary bohemian bolt hole, The Chelsea Hotel. Arthur Miller is just across the hall and the symphony of 24th Street is rising up and in through the open window of Brendan Behan’s room. He is broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book, the first line of which he is yet to write. He was told to stop drinking or he’d be dead in six months – that was two years ago. Today is not going well. His mistress keeps ringing, the bills aren’t paid and a wire arrives from Dublin with the kind of news that’s guaranteed to put his blood pressure through the roof…
Adrian Dunbar (who sings a song in Irish) and Janice Behan were interviewed on the John Murray Show this morning on RTÉ Radio 1.