The Third Policeman, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Blue Raincoat Theatre Company
Niall Henry (director), Jocelyn Clarke (author), Peter Davey (production manager), Jamie Vartan (designer), Michael Cummins (lighting design), Joe Hunt (sound design)
John Carty, Kellie Hughes, Ciaran McCauley, Fiona McGeowan, Sandra O'Malley
Running time

Along with many others, this reviewer loves work. He could watch it all day. Especially when the job in hand is in the capable grasp of Blue Raincoat Theatre Company and the task that of transforming Flann O’Brien’s comic novel ‘The Third Policeman’ into quite remarkable theatre.

O’Brien himself wrote to the U.S. humourist S.J. Perlman ‘I’ve been wondering whether I could make a crazy... play out of it’.

Fifty years later, Jocelyn Clarke has taken up the gauntlet and produced something rare for a cast to sink its teeth into. ‘The Third Policemen’ has indeed ‘any amount of scope for back-chat and funny cracks’ as O’Brien tells us, but it’s a deeper, edgier article than that. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as re-imagined by the likes of Hieronymous Bosch might be a little nearer the mark.

A murder mystery, a sharp comic satire on parochial Ireland and petty-minded bureaucracy, a surrealistic meditation on eternity and an erotic fantasy centred on the bicycle, barely describe the themes picked up, played with and cast aside as light and shade dance around each other.

If The Third Policeman has found its adaptor, it has also found its cast. Their work is indeed a joy to watch, and John Carty, Kellie Hughes, Ciaran McCauley, Fiona McGeowan and Sandra O’Malley bring the tale to very active life. Their strong, shrewd and sharply drawn acting ascends in almost equal measure to the downward direction of O’Brien’s hell-bound elevator.

This is theatricality of a high order, even set against the high standards of some other Ireland-based companies. Almost worth hitting yer man over the head to get a ticket for, The Third Policeman certainly makes for one of the most arresting evenings in a theatre in quite some time.

Played 3 June, 2010