Blue Raincoat bring The Third Policeman to Glasgow's Tron Theatre
Flann O’Brien’s novel, The Third Policeman is intriguing for its capacity to weave the extraordinary from the banal. Its representation of mid-20th century Irish rural life takes its central, unnamed character on a journey through recognisable fields, pubs and inns peopled by rogues and vagabonds. Yet somewhere the story becomes far more existential than its surface action suggests, bringing the reader into a fantastical landscape that suggests frightening ideas in often comic language and imagery.
So how does a theatre-maker distil so extravagantly picaresque a journey? According to Niall Henry, director of this acclaimed Jocelyn Clark adaptation for Irish company Blue Raincoat, the key is simplicity. ‘Our whole company is geared toward absurd texts, with plenty of visual and movement-based work,’ he says. ‘But we stay with this simple idea of what it’s about, so as not to get confounding or pretentious or lost in some other way. So for me the story is about this man’s obsession with this box that he’s stolen, which he’s now lost. That’s my starting point for so many things the audience might need the text to become.’
For all its existential overtones, Henry maintains the novel is still primarily comic, and has much to say about the Irish character. ‘Interestingly it seems to me that the English are quite good at laughing at themselves, something the Irish haven’t been good at, with the exception of O’Brien – he has that quality of being deeply self-critical, scathing and hilarious at the same time. You get to embrace the ridiculousness of yourself.’
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 25-Sat 29 May