"The Thing About 'The Hostage' Was That It Changed Every Night"


About this Item

Joan Littlewood and journalist Donal Foley recall the run of 'The Hostage' in London. 'The Hostage' was played differently every night with topical references added and with Behan himself interjecting or joining in the performance at times.

  • Title
    The Writer, The Rebel, And The Rollicking Boy
  • 1st Broadcast
  • Contributor
    Anthony Cronin (Presenter)
  • Clip Duration
  • Material Type
  • Clip title
    "The Thing About 'The Hostage' Was That It Changed Every Night"
  • Extended description

    Joan Littlewood describes how he settled in London. For Joan Litttlewood Brendan Behan's attendance at performances of 'The Hostage' was part of the play itself. Every night the play was something different with Behan often a major part ot the performance.

    Journalist Donal Foley remembers Behan would be in audience 'The Hostage' engaging with the actors. At the interval he was in a pub giving quotes to anyone who would listen. One night he went back into the theatre got up on the stage and danced a hornpipe.  

  • Information

    Originally written and performed in Irish as 'An Giall' at Dublin's Damer Theatre, Behan's English language adaptation of the play, 'The Hostage', met with great success internationally following Joan Littlewood's production in London in 1958. In the play a young British soldier is abducted by the IRA: he is to be held as a bargaining tool against the execution of an IRA prisoner the following morning. The play is set in a brothel, the IRA safe house where the British soldier is being held. 'The Hostage' mixed song, dance and direct interaction with the audience.

    'Brendan Behan - The Writer, The Rebel, And The Rollicking Boy' was a documentary compiled and presented by Anthony Cronin to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Behan.

    The programme was broadcast on the 24 March 1974.

    The photograph accompanying this clip shows a tenement hallway from the RTÉ Television production of Brendan Behan's play 'An Giall' ('The Hostage'), during filming in January 1968.

    The photographer was Phil Dowling.

    © RTÉ Stills Library 2199/034


  • Local keywords
    Brendan Behan, Literature, Drama, Arts, Culture, Joan Littlewood, Donal Foley
  • Geographical coverage
  • Topic
    Arts and Culture
  • Publisher Broadcaster
  • First broadcast channel
  • Production year
  • Country of production
  • Original identifier
  • IPR restrictions
    Rights Reserved - Free Access
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  • Item type
  • Item sound
  • Language used
    English (eng)