Set in an Irish prison, the 1954 comedy-drama finds 13 caged men awaiting the appointed hour of the unseen quare fellow’s hanging. The Quare Fellow - based on the personal prison experiences of Behan, who was an IRA activist and jailed for carrying explosives - has not had a major UK staging in nearly two decades.
The new Oxford Stage presentation marks 50 years since the play’s first production in Dublin and London. Behan’s other stage works include Hostage and The Borstal Boy.
Burke is best known for her TV performances in Gimme Gimme Gimme and numerous comedy series with Harry Enfield (particularly the sketches featuring Wayne and Waynetta Slob, and teenagers Kevin and Perry). On film, she has appeared in Kevin and Perry Go Large, Elizabeth, Nil by Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, This Year's Love and Dancing at Lughnasa.
Now concentrating largely on directing, Burke's stage directorial credits include Born Bad, Betty, Kosher Harry and Jonathan Harvey's Boom Bang-a-Bang and Out in the Open. The Quare Fellow is designed by David Rogers with lighting by Chris Davey and sound by Fergus O’Hare.
Following Liverpool, the Behan revival visits Oldham, Glasgow, Bury St Edmunds, Oxford and York before transferring to the Tricycle in north London. Other Oxford Stage projects planned for 2004 include Sean Holmes’ production of Peter Flannery’s Singer, which will play at the Tricycle from 10 March to 10 April, and Christopher Luscombe’s revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, which launches a regional tour in May.
- by Terri Paddock