Contributed by Eoghan Smith
2011 is the centenary year of Brian O’Nolan’s birth. Better known as Flann O’Brien, his work represents the last great rebellion of Irish modernism before the naturalist mysticism of Patrick Kavanagh, John McGahern and Seamus Heaney suppressed the comic element in Irish writing. Along with The Third Policeman (1967), At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) is the last outpost on the border between the radical ambition of the Irish modernism, and the introverted helplessness of much of post-war Irish literature. After reading O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, James Joyce famously said, ‘that’s a real writer, with the true comic spirit’.
Jocelyn Clarke’s adaption of At Swim-Two-Birds for Blue Raincoat Theatre Company is a brilliantly conceived rendition of the true lower-middle class comic voice of O’Brien’s labyrinthine meta-novel. Recounting the tale of a writer who is writing a novel, who then loses control of his characters, At Swim is a riotous affair in which the conventions of storytelling are pressurized until they almost explode. Read more