1964: Brendan Behan at Lime Grove

Article excerpt

Characteristically of this crazy time, it was appearing drunk on television, not his writings, which first aroused public interest in Brendan Behan. As I was the interviewer concerned in this hilarious episode, I should like, now that the poor fellow is dead, to record exactly what happened.

It was the idea of Catherine Dove, then working on Panorama, to get Behan to Lime Grove. His play, The Quare Fellow, was running, under Miss Littlewood's spirited direction, out at Stratford. Though it had been well reviewed, no West End management had evinced any interest in it. On the morning after Behan's Panorama appearance, Miss Littlewood told me, she had five eager inquiries.

I arranged to meet Behan at the Garrick Club in the early evening. He arrived in a fairly high condition, with his delightful wife and carrying some kind of wreath he had acquired in the course of the day's festivities. One or two members peeped in curiously as we took a few noisy drinks before leaving for Lime Grove. There, in the entertainment room, refreshment continued to be available, and Behan was soon singing, shouting obscenities in his customary style.

The other Panorama items were perfect. Woodrow Wyatt was to question two brass hats from the War Office on civil defence. Then there was an item about finishing schools, in which a headmistress and some of her charges were to appear. At one point they all filed into the entertainment room, heard Behan holding forth, about-turned and filed out again. After they had gone, Behan turned to me and asked with some anguish: Didn't I see a lot of pretty girls in here just now?" I explained that he had been dreaming. …