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1st Jul, 2022

Is it about a bicycle? Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman performed at The Mac

Correspondent 29th Jul, 2017 Updated: 31st Jul, 2017

THE Cornwall-based, Miracle Theatre group put on a fabulous production of Flann O’Brien’s posthumous novel, The Third Policeman on Saturday, July 8.

Staged at the outdoor ‘gladiator-style’ theatre beside the mac Birmingham, a bustling arts complex situated in Cannon Hill Park just two miles from Birmingham city centre. The play was “a surreal, comic adventure” to fit the bill.

This hilarious new adaptation by Bill Scott, Meiert Avis & Robert Bayley about murder and mistaken identity had the audience laughing all night long.

Miracle performers ventured into a world somewhere between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Donnie Darko. O’Brien’s earth is not round but sausage-shaped and night is actually an hallucination—an accumulation of black particles in the sky.

Eccentric policemen fall in love with bicycles, defend the barracks from an attacking army of one leggèd men, and visit eternity via a rickety lift hidden in the heart of the midlands.

The outdoor venue allowed for an open concept stage with minimal set props and crew. Four performers played all ten characters. Catherine Lake played no less than five characters.

Actors wandered into the audience at various times, rode bicycles around the stage, disappeared completely and materialised elsewhere. Ciaran Clarke’s sound design hit all the right notes for The Third Policeman’s juxtaposition of eeriness and comedy.

Miracle’s production takes a bit of a leap from the original by casting actress Hannah Stephens in the role of the central male character but her performance is a fine one.

Some fans may miss O’Brien’s satirical use of footnotes (tangents that sometimes run to several pages!)

Playgoers must instead rely on the regular dialogue to learn anything about the idiot savant known as De Selby.

A line from the book sums up the play in its entirety ‘it is nearly an insoluble pancake’.

Joe LaBine


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