Photograph of the Month
3 March - 31 March 2014
by Daniel Farson
Joan Littlewood’s staging of The Quare Fellow at the Theatre Workshop Stratford East in 1956 established Behan as a leading Irish writer. Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan wrote that ‘Behan’s new play language is out on a spree, ribald, dauntless and spoiling for a fight.’
Behan's play in the Irish language An Giall opened in Dublin in 1957. His English adaptation, The Hostage, met with international success following Joan Littlewood's production in London in 1958 where it was reviewed as ‘a masterpiece of magnanimity’ by Harold Hobson in The Sunday Times. Behan’s colourful memoir Borstal Boy, published in the same year, received universal acclaim.
International success and financial reward were followed by an increase in Behan’s excessive drinking. Exacerbated by diabetes, his health and his writing suffered and he died, fifty years ago, on 20 March 1964.
Farson’s career was multifaceted; a Picture Post photographer, television presenter, writer and legendary Soho figure. His week documenting Behan in Dublin, financed although never published by Picture Post, resulted in portraits that Farson thought showed ‘him at his happiest… unshaven, scarred, he looked magnificent, with his zest for life intact.’