Brendan Behan: Borstal Boy, The Quare Fellow and The Hostage: Three BBC Radio Full-Cast Productions

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
March 2024
4 hours 12 minutes
A collection of some of the rockstar playwright’s finest work

Brendan Behan is widely remembered as a hard-drinking, wise-cracking writer who turned up roaring drunk for interviews and cared little for authority. But he was more than just a hell-raising celebrity. His wit, expressive use of language and understanding of human nature made his writing famous around the world, and his masterpieces The Quare Fellow, Borstal Boy and The Hostage rank among the greatest works of 20th century Irish literature. Dramatisations of all three appear here, alongside a short interview with Behan himself and a fascinating biographical programme celebrating his genius.

Charting Behan’s journey from shy, passionate young man to larger-than-life literary superstar, Borstal Boy tells the story of a stammering IRA rebel who finds true friends and first love in an English borstal. Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey) stars as Behan in this fresh take on his honest, tender 1958 memoir. Behan’s debut play, The Quare Fellow, first produced in 1954, was based on his own prison experiences. A darkly funny drama about a group of inmates awaiting the imminent execution of a fellow prisoner, it is performed here by players from the Arts Theatre, Lyric Theatre, and Ulster Theatre Company, Belfast. And finally, translated from the Gaelic by acclaimed writer Lorcán Ó Treasaigh, An Giall (The Hostage) revolves around a British soldier held hostage by the IRA in a Dublin brothel. This 1988 Radio 3 version is the first English production of Behan’s Irish tragicomedy, which formed the basis of Joan Littlewood 's 1958 Theatre Workshop hit.

Also included is a 1959 clip from BBC Television’s Tonight, featuring Brendan Behan in conversation with Derek Hart, and an episode of Great Lives in which Joan Littlewood talks to Humphrey Carpenter about her long-time friend and collaborator.

Cast and credits

Written by Brendan Behan

Text copyright © Brendan Behan 1954 (The Quare Fellow), 1958 (Borstal Boy, The Hostage)

Borstal Boy

Cast: Brendan Coyle, Jonny Holden, Joseph Ayre, Leah Marks, Ewan Bailey, Connor Curren, Samuel James, Gerard McDermott

Dramatised by Martin McNamara

Directed by Anne Isger

Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Powell

Sound: Anne Bunting, Jenni Burnett, Ali Craig and Cal Knightley

A BBC Audio Production for BBC Radio 4

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 16 Apr 2023

The Quare Fellow

Cast: John McBride, Louis Rolston, Michael Duffy, Sam McCready, Maurice O’Callaghan, Michael Lynch, Charles Witherspoon, Bill Hunter, Peter Adair, Barry Cowan, Brian Cullen, Harold Goldblatt, Joe McPartland, J.J. Murphy, Patrick Brannigan, Jack McQuoid, Jeremy Jones, George Mooney

Adapted and produced by David A. Turner

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 22 Sep 1969

The Hostage

Cast: Michael Baguley, Brian Kidd, Kieron Smith, Ann Callanan, John Hewitt, Anne Kent, Anthony Finigan, Stephen Ryan, Sean Kearns, Tom Jordan

Translated by Lorcán Ó Treasaigh

Directed by Jeremy Howe

Bagpipes played by Brian Kidd

First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 12 Aug 1988

Brendan Behan interview from Tonight

Presented by Derek Hart

With Brendan Behan

First broadcast BBC Television Service, 21 Apr 1959

Great Lives: Brendan Behan

Presented by Humphrey Carpenter

With Joan Littlewood

Produced by Peter Everett

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 2 Nov 2001

© 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd
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