Richard's Cork Leg
When Brendan Behan died in 1964 his two bawdy, savage and compassionate plays, The Quare Fellow and The Hostage, had won lasting places of honour in the repertoire of the post-war British theatre. What was not generally known until 1971 was that Behan had left behind him a virtually complete third play, Richard's Cork Leg. This was first staged by the Abbey Theatre Company at the Peacock Theatre as part of the Dublin Festival in 1972, directed by Alan Simpson, who edited and completed the text, and the Dublin production was subsequently presented at the Royal Court Theatre. Set largely in a graveyard, Richard's Cork Leg is a vintage collection of scenes, jokes and songs on the themes of love, religion, politics and death. In the words of The Guardian, it is 'a joyous celebration of life' and a wholly characteristic postscript to Behan's earlier work.
The photograph on the front cover shows The Dubliners in the 1972 Royal Court Theatre production and is reproduced by courtesy of Douglas Jeffery. The photograph on the back of the cover of Brendan Behan and his wife, Beatrice, is by the late Dermot Barry and is reproduced by courtesy of Paul Barry.
Richard's Cork Leg was first performed by the Abbey Theatre Company at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, on March 14 1972 and subsequently transferred to the Opera House, Cork, and to the Olympia Theatre, Dublin.
The play was also presented by the English Stage Company at The Royal Court Theatre, London, by arrangement with Noel Pearson in September 19 1972.
A Note for Directors (excepts)
For the first production I engaged the well-known Irish folk group 'The Dubliners' who arranged the musical score as well as playing the male roles. Because there were five of them I created the role of The Black Gentleman's Assistant for Barney McKenna. Although this character as played by Barney was beloved of our audiences, he could be dropped in future productions. Before I thought of having 'The Dubliners' I had considered using an organ as accompaniment. This could be built into the decor and would enhance the solemn ecclesiastical background. 'The Dubliners' play banjo, guitars, melodian, mandolin, violin and tin whistles. However any instrumental combination which suited the talents of the company would suffice.