The Dead School | Patrick McCabe


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“Boys and girls, I hope you are all well. The story I have for you this morning is about two teachers and the things they got up to in the days gone by…”

The Dead School is a titanic clash between the forces of modernism and tradition in 1970s Ireland. Raphael Bell, an old style national school teacher, whose life is haunted by images and memories from his past, has devoted his life to upholding all that is traditional, pure and wholesome in the Ireland of Eucharistic Congresses. On the other side stands Malachy Dudgeon, a first-year teacher and one of the new breed about town, where rock music and American movies are king and rules are made to be broken.

Two men, a generation apart, begin to plummet in Dublin. Their descents are oddly parallel, notwithstanding their age difference; and yet they intersect, once, twice. One is a headmaster; the other a teacher. Events from their childhoods gestate, percolate and perhaps ultimately destroy. Their histories make them both time bombs.

When these two men come together, chaos is only round the corner. As in The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto (both nominated for the Booker Prize), Pat  McCabe demonstrates his ability to pinpoint the exact moment when ordinary minds take flight  into madness. Equally compelling, equally heartbreaking in its impact, The Dead School has established McCabe as one of the most celebrated writers of literary fiction today.


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Production Reviews

★★★★ The Sunday Times

“Top of the class… Director Andrew Flynn pulls out all the stops… Pat McCabe at his best.”

Irish Examiner

“This charismatic adaptation of Pat McCabe’s 1995 novel is bursting with energy and teeming with ideas… The set works small miracles… The costumes are also fantastic… This is bold and bracing theatre.”

Galway Advertiser

“The play is realised with terrific brio and inventiveness… Anyone has not yet booked a ticket for The Dead School should remedy that post haste – this is one of the best shows in the Galway International Festival.”


Patrick McCabe

“McCabe is a true original,” says critic and novelist John Banville. “Like Roddy Doyle writing about life in working-class Dublin suburbs, McCabe has used stuff the rest of us didn’t bother with and made a peculiar kind of rough poetry out of it. He catches that particular kind of bizarre, insane world of Irish country life in the 50s and 60s. People like [Sean] O’Faolain and Frank O’Connor wrote about it in lyrical mode, [John] McGahern wrote about it in tragic mode, but McCabe writes about it in a kind of antic black comedy that is absolutely unique.”

McCabe was born on March 27, 1955, in Clones, County Monaghan, Ireland, to Bernard and Dympna McCabe. He attended St. Patrick’s Training College from 1971 to 1974 and began teaching at schools for the learning disabled in Ireland and eventually moved to England. In the mid-1980s McCabe started writing radio plays. He also wrote several novels beginning with Music on Clinton Street, which was published in 1986. McCabe’s The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto has garnered the most critical acclaim for the author, including a Irish Times-Aer Lingus Award and two nominations for the 1992 Booker Prize.


Book Reviews

“The big challenge for an Irish writer is to move in a new direction from the magisterial accomplishment of Joyce, Yeats, and Beckett, and to do it within the remarkable scope of Irish English. McCabe is the man. “

The Irish Times


“It is truly a simple modern classic like Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America or Carson McCullers’s The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.”

The Guardian


“Flann O’Brien meets The Mayor of Casterbridge. A nasty triumph.”

Irish Independent



“Mr. McCabe suffuses this book with undeniable power.”

Washington Post


“McCabe is as skilled and significant a novelist as Ireland has produced in decades.”

The New York Times


“The Dead School makes compelling literature….The writing is seamless, the effect shocking: Imagine Apocalypse Now cheerfully narrated by Jimmy Stewart.”

The Times