For a long time, I’ve been an admirer of the comic genius that was/is Brian O’Nolan aka Flann O’Brien aka Myles na Gopaleen, Brian Ó Nualláin and whatever you’re having yourself.

After reading the Catechism of Cliche, myself and other followers of the great man would take great pleasure in adding to the ammunition of the journalistic profession à la Myles ie:

When things are few, what also are they? Far between.

From what sort of time does a custom date? Time immemorial.

Or after reading At Swim-Two-Birds, we’d try to recreate the language of the Irish epic, all compound nouns and supernatural skills at hurling, chess play and hunting deer and wizards while drinking copious amounts of mead/Stella/WKD.

His satire on Dineen’s Irish dictionary is unmatched.

O’Nolan’s writing gets right inside your head and refuses to budge, his serious playfulness with language lingering in your mind like a toy someone has left behind for you to play with.

While The Third Policeman does this too, it is what kind of dissimilar piscean receptacle? It’s a different kettle of fish.

And that came through in the wonderful reading by Stephen Rea of O’Brien’s metaphysical murder mystery accompanied by Colin Reid’s suite for piano, two cellos and violin based on the novel and written about a decade ago.

This was a darkly humorous and a darkly dark telling of the tale of murder, greed and the Atomic Theory.

Large chunks of the book have been ditched by Reid – no de Selby – but to have included everything would have called for the musical equivalent of the Titanic, probably with the same tragic denouement.

Rea is a truly great actor – you don’t need me to tell you that – and his cadences were as hypnotic as the music as he led us through the quagmire of O’Brien’s imaginings from murder most foul to the famous theory of how people turn into their modes of transport.

“The gross and net result of it is that people who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who nearly are half people and half bicycles.”

But for all its absurdist humour, The Third Policeman was a scary piece of work even at a lunchtime reading. When the music was jaunty and the mood lightened, the minor chords were always evident, nothing was quite right, this story was never going to end happily ever after.

With Colin Reid himself on piano, Neil Martin and Becky Joslin on cello with Niamh Crowley on violin this was a wonderful fusion of music and literature.

Maybe there is something to this Atomic Theory after all!

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