The Third Policeman, Miracle Theatre on tour

FLANN O’Brien’s posthumously published novel The Third Policeman takes its readers into a parallel universe of non-sequiturs, obsession and very peculiar people (reminiscent of the current encumbrance of the White House.)

It’s a story that might seem impossible to adapt for the stage, but that’s without the skills of Miracle Theatre’s Bill Scott and his quartet of versatile actors, on the triumphant 2017 tour.

The devotion that the company has won on its regional tours was demonstrated in a beautiful garden at Sandford Orcas for the second of three Artsreach-promoted stops on the summer tour. And the 150+ audience was not disappointed, as Benjamin Dyson, Ben Kernow, Hannah Stephens and Catherine Lake proceeded to delight, amaze, flummox and generally entertain the crowd, with the help of a versatile set, and (of course) bicycles.

O’Brien’s masterpiece is all about a one-legged orphan, with no name, who returns home to the family farm and pub and finds that a man called John Divney has been running it since the death of the parents. Our hero (or heroine, in the form of Hanna Stephens in the Miraculous adaptation), is obsessed with the thoughts of the philosopher De Selby, and much more interested in writing the definitive work on his life than in running the pub. But she doesn’t have the funds to publish the book, so falls in with Divney’s idea of killing a wealthy and decrepit old regular, Mathers, and stealing his money.

Three years on, hating each other, neither the nameless one nor Divney has touched the money.

That’s the easy bit.

From then we enter the world of metafiction, as our heroine goes to get the money, finds someone who looks remarkably like Mathers, meets a murderous one legged brigand called Martine Finnucane, is sent to the local police station and discovers that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio …

It is barmy fun, occasionally interspersed with a vein of possibility, and always surrounded by the bicycles that obsess Sgt Pluck (Mr Dyson) and Pc MacCruiskeen (Mr Kernow). Catherine Lake plays all the other roles, mostly on two wheels!

And let’s not forget the insistent sound of the trombone that makes up the soundscape.

It take exceptional actors to carry this off, especially when they also have to contend with the vagaries of the English summer, a large number of different venues, all presenting their own challenges of level, slope and audience numbers.

These four are just sensational, making Miracle magnificent again. The final Dorset date for the tour is Saturday 5th August at Kimmeridge, but if you miss it, The Third Policeman is absolutely worth the journey to the company’s home county of Cornwall, where the tour continues until the end of August.


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