Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow, directed by Tom Creed, will run from Friday, 24th November to Saturday, 27th January on the Abbey stage. It will later be joined by HAMMAM, a co-production with ANU Productions, written and directed by Louise Lowe, which will have its world premiere in the Peacock, running from Wednesday 20th December to Saturday, 6th January. The winter announcement closes a year of critically and popularly acclaimed work at the national theatre. 

Coinciding with the end of the centenary of the birth of Brendan Behan and the beginning of the 70th anniversary of the play, The Quare Fellow will be given a never-seen-before makeover for the Abbey stage. This production of the play, which centres on the arrival of a condemned murderer at Mountjoy Prison and his execution, will see the traditionally all-male cast played exclusively by female and non-binary actors. 

Commenting, Director Tom Creed said: “Approaching The Quare Fellow almost 70 years after it was first performed, I am captivated and deeply moved by the wild humour and great compassion with which Brendan Behan explores prison life and human rights. The play presents the prison as a microcosm of society, where inmates and workers alike do their best to get by in a system that imprisons them all. Working with a large cast of female and non-binary performers, with diverse backgrounds in drama, performance and cabaret, we will draw on the long tradition of music hall that Behan loved, as well as his subversive legacy of surprising and confronting audiences with big ideas on a good night out.” 

The Quare Fellow premiered at the Pike Theatre, Dublin in 1954 directed by Alan Simpson. The Abbey Theatre first produced the play in 1956, with its most recent outing made in 1984.  

Meanwhile, HAMMAM, a new work from ANU, will delve into the lesser-known history of the Hammam Hotel and its underground Turkish bath on O’Connell Street, and the role it played in the Battle of Dublin. It will see the entirety of the Peacock – including backstage areas – transformed, with audiences invited into the epicentre of the Civil War. There, they will be propelled through an immersive, visceral theatre experience, traversing the depths of the destroyed buildings to purge one of the most contentious elements of our past and its enduring legacy in the present. The dreamlike production will highlight multiple, often overlooked narratives of those who found themselves in the Turkish bath at that time. HAMMAM concludes a prolific body of work from ANU around the Decade of Centenaries, comprising a staggering 22 projects.

Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors of ANU Productions, Louise Lowe and Owen Boss said: “We are thrilled to complete the final show of this incredible cycle of work at the national theatre, generating a warren of discovery for audiences to traverse and explore.” 

Speaking about the announcement, Co-Director of the Abbey, Artistic Director Caitriona McLaughlin said: “Like his Dublin contemporary, Beckett — but in his own entirely different comic, bawdy, and tender register — Behan found humour and humanity in the most desperate situations. In The Quare Fellow, he scrutinises the resilient dignity of lives on the fringes of society in his timeless prison drama. His vulgar, scheming incarcerated chancers are shown in all their ragged glory, but Behan resists sentimentalising or romanticising their plight, instead treating the terrible event at the heart of the play — a hanging — with compassion and insight.   

“ANU, with HAMMAM continue their ongoing project of peeling back the hidden and forgotten layers of Dublin civic life buried just beneath the surface that continue to find resonance in the present. Both these productions bring cloistered, hidden worlds to our attention in a timely reminder of our need for community — sometimes conditional, sometimes provisional — wherever we find it.”