The day was dying and the wind was sighing,
As I lay crying in my prison cell,
And the old triangle
Went jingle jangle
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Brendan Behan’s play The Quare Fellow, a meditation on a condemned man’s final hours in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison, emphasises the ways in which the routines and confines of the gaol combine to annihilate time: at various points in the play, verses of a song, “The Auld Triangle”, are heard, sung offstage as if by the (always unseen) prisoner himself. The repetition of the chorus reminds us that the only rhythm in this life, the only punctuation, is the jangling of the triangle used to wake the prisoners every morning. Days pass identically, separated, one from another, by the ringing of the triangle. The words of the song, interspersed through the time of the play, introduce the idea – the possibility – of an elsewhere, a space that is outside prison-time, only for the triangle to reassert itself at the end of each verse, jus...