A Comparison/Contrast Of Brendan Behan's 1940' Ira Stagework "An Gaill" And Its English Version "The Hostage"

2885 words - 12 pages

From An Gaill to The Hostage and the greatness lost thereinBrendan Behan is arguably the most prolific post World War II writer to come from Ireland. A joint American-English audience, expecting another Joyce or Swift eagerly accepted the new author into the world of English theater. A scandalous character, he was known as a wild "angry youth"(Ricks 9), often appearing drunk in public and being arrested for that charge several times while on travels in America, Canada, and England (Boyle 137). Of his work offered to contemporary theater, the play An Gaill was the most praised. Published in 1958, it was set in current day Ireland. Two years earlier, in 1956, Ireland saw the launch of operation "Harvestman" by the IRA, the first total border campaign for the liberation of Ulster from British rule (Coogan 228). History is wound into the story in that the character Leslie is plucked out of County Armagh and slipped effortlessly across the border. This is actually quite accurate in describing the Nationalist feeling of Armagh and the lack of border security. Also, the play is based on an actual event, where a British soldier by the name of Bruce Lennon was captured and held in Belfast in an attempt to halt the hanging of a captured IRA man. The play vividly challenges modern thinking in Ireland concerning Nationalism and dieing for ones country, mixed in with a severely witty use of the Irish (Gaelic) language's many double meanings and hidden references. However, the Gaeltacht audience is not an extremely large one, so with the aid of Joan Littlewood he translated his play into English, trusting her to know the wants of an English audience. Alas, as with all matters Irish, the Anglicization of Irish culture always leaves a mere perverted shell of its former greatness, such is the story of the theme, characters, and tone of An Gaill and The Hostage.The most subtle difference between the tones of both stories is also the one that is first apparent. The score of the story plays an important role throughout the entire play in both productions. In An Gaill the play opens up with the soft sound of drums (A Bodhrán) followed by pipes playing "Flowers of the Forest" as the curtain rises to Pat and Meg sitting on the table, quietly drinking tea. Later, at the end of Act 1 Kate and Teresa sit around the radio lamenting about the poor Belfast boy to be hanged tomorrow, just then a song comes on, a quiet pipe melody. This scene is important because the Irish title of this song is "An Londubh" (The Blackbird) and in Irish history the word londubh represents a metaphor for a hero, thus making a comparison of the Belfast boy to a hero. Throughout the play music plays a roll in soothing the audience between scenes of humor or remorseIn The Hostage music plays an entirely dissimilar role. The play opens up to a coalescent clamor of pipes, fiddles, and drums in some wild Irish jig. All the play's characters are seen to be up dancing and meandering around to the...

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