Date: 9/20/1960 - 1/7/1961 (127 Performances)

Location: Cort Theatre, Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Eugene O'Neill Theatre

 

 

Produced by: Leonard S. Field and Caroline Burke Swann

Directed by: Joan Littlewood

Written by: Brendan Behan

Also Starring: Avis Bunnage, Patience Collier, Anita Dangler, Glynn Edwards

Terry's Character: Princess Grace, an American prize-fighter - featured role

Genre: Play / Original

Plot Summary: The action of The Hostage takes place in 1958 in a Dublin flophouse owned by a barmy Anglo-Irishman with militant Republican sympathies. The landlord has agreed to shelter two operatives of the Irish Republican Army and their prisoner, an 18-year-old English soldier snared in reprisal for the capital sentence just passed on an IRA member convicted of shooting a policeman. The whores and scruffy losers who inhabit the boarding house have been keening over news accounts of the young IRA man awaiting execution in a Belfast jail. The arrival of the English hostage, appealingly wet behind his ears, transforms the weird ecosystem of the residence, eliciting humane responses from its denizens and mitigating their patriotic self-righteousness.

Throughout The Hostage, Behan is occupied with serious topics such as national and ethnic identity, territorial autonomy, and the human cost of terrorism and political strife. But he never capitulates to solemnity or genuine partisanship. For a final chorus to be sung after a spate of gunfire and the death of one of the play's most sympathetic characters, Behan comes up with a bouncy, iconoclastic refrain, rather than the dirge that might be expected: "The bells of hell/Go ting-a-ling-a-ling/For you but not for me./Oh death where is thy/Sting-a-ling-a-ling/Or grave thy victory?"

As that ditty suggests, The Hostage is as much in the tradition of British Music Hall as in the lineage of Irish drama. Frequently, songs or lively dances disrupt the flow of dialogue. At times, music and choreography seem about to derail the narrative. In every case, they prove to enhance the audience's grasp of Behan's characters and his imaginative universe.

Notes: Terry was in the national touring company. He replaced the original cast member in the Broadway production just as they were about to leave Broadway for the tour.