The Sligo based innovative theatre company Blueraincoat came to Garter Lane last week for three days with Jocelyn Clarke’s unexciting adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds. Following on from their excellent version of the same author’s The Third Policeman.
There are risks turning complicated literature into interesting drama and At Swim Two Birds is too clever a literary conundrum to start with. Written about the same time as Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and Beckett’s first novel, Murphy, it carries that literary burden of being or trying to be significant. The book and drams opens with a narrator asking why a book should have only one opening and then proceeds to develop three different openings. In another scene it is also a man Brian O’Nolan inventing an author/pseudonym Flann O’Brien to get a student who lives mostly in his bedroom to write a book about Dermot Trellis who is writing a book, where the characters want to break out and have more interesting lives.
So you get a Finn MacCool, a stave or two of Irish folklore, quotes from the Bible, a Pooka character, and another wise idiot born when he was twenty-five. There’s also a lot of blather about not leaving one’s room, reading too many books, a fine Gilbert & Sullivan pastiche song and a disappointing inclusion of the bard Jem Casey, author of A Pint of Plain Is Your Only Man. Then of the five ensemble actors at least three of them wear dark suits and white shirts further confusing an audience trying to link three of Fifties of Fosterlings playing ball against the backside of MacCool, while cowboys roam the prairies of Ringsend. Somewhere in there is Mad Sweeney, a skelp at Gaelgoirí and the intellectual ramblings of a heavy drinker.
Blueraincoat swam against this tide under Niall Henry’s direction and featured five fine actors in a cascando of roles. The actors were John Carty, Kellie Hughes, Ciaran McCauley, Fiona McGeown and Sandra O’Malley.
Ochon, ochon, ochon,