Tag Archives: Bloomsday

Review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man at the New Theatre

To be honest with you, I’ve always described Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel as a bit of a dose. Stephen Dedalus isn’t my most favourite person; I’m more of a ‘Bloomer’ myself. Yet Stephen’s story is integral to Ulysses and offers an insight into Joyce’s views of the artist and his attempts to fly by the nets flung at the soul of the artist – nation, language and church.

gi_image_thumbUlysses picks up where Portrait leaves off and most of the ground work for Stephen’s character building is done in Portrait so, unsurprisingly given the intensity of Stephen’s character – all that artistic angst, it can be heavy going. Adapted by Tony Chesterman and directed by Jimmy Fay; the New Theatre’s current stage production of Joyce’s first published novel provides the perfect insight into Joyce’s artistic discoveries, and is the ideal start to today’s Bloomsday celebrations.

The play travels chronologically through young Stephen’s life, each influential moment is captured and reproduced to build up to the artistic awakening that Stephen needed to go through in order to become the aspiring writer we meet up with again in Ulysses.

Knowing about Joyce’s life and the connection between him and Dedalus are helpful in understanding his work, but definitely not necessary. So, over-stating the autobiographical connections between Joyce and Stephen (the narrator persists in referring to him as Jim) and explaining chapter three’s ‘fire-and-brimstone-we’re-all-going-to-hell-for-eternity’ episode of sorts with a brief history lesson on the influences of the Catholic church during Joyce’s time, seemed to me taking a step too far to educate the audience on the life of Joyce. However, I have a good grounding in Joyce, and my theatre buddy who doesn’t have that benefit did say she found it helpful.

Performances from Lauren Farrell as the curious young Joyce and Katie O’Kelly in a variety of roles do not fail to impress. O’Kelly has the superb ability to morph her face into a variety of different expressions, and shone particularly as Aunt Dante in the Christmas dinner scene. For me, Charlie Hughes stole the show as Joyce’s Corkonian father as well as a terrifying and dominating rector in chapter three. Joyce’s characters are wonderfully well built and multi dimensional and I’d imagine a real joy for an actor to get hold of.

Chesterman has done a wonderful job adapting the novel to create an effective stage piece whilst also making a nod to Joyce’s artistic approaches at stages, for example Ithaca’s question and answer format makes an appearance and there’s a very conscious effort to include Joyce’s big passion – music, with singing and sound effects adding to the production. Thankfully the production manages to become its own piece of art, drawing inspiration from Joyce but also finding its own feet too.

The play is definitely worth going to, especially during ‘Bloom season’. It runs until June 22 in The New Theatre and you can find out more about performances here.

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The Sun Shines Today

Ok well maybe it didn’t, maybe it was windy and rainy but if it did shine today, it would be shining for James Joyce.

January 1st, 2012 – today Joyce’s published works come out of copyright in Europe, which is exciting times for Joyceans. Now hopefully artists and writers will have the freedom to use Joyce’s work to create their own art – for example, Joyce’s play ‘Exiles’ can now be produced without the restrictions or preventions of the notoriously strict Joyce estate. Stage and screen adaptations of Joyce’s work can now be freely produced. And I can copy and paste entire sections of Joyce’s work and publish them on my blog worry free – happy days.

I can’t quite explain why this is my favourite passage from Ulysses, I think it’s the humour and perhaps the lovely turn of phrase, but this always stands out for me whenever I think of Joyce’s blue book of Eccles. It’s a conversation between some men in Barney Kiernan’s pub, just general chit chat, but when they start speaking of a certain Paddy Dignam, confusion ensues:

“So I saw there was going to be bit of a dust. Bob’s a queer chap when the porter’s up in him so says I just to make talk:

— How’s Willy Murray those times, Alf?

— I don’t know, says Alf. I saw him just now in Capel Street with Paddy Dignam. Only I was running after that.

— You what? says Joe, throwing down the letters. With who?

— With Dignam, says Alf.

— Is it Paddy? says Joe.

— Yes, says Alf. Why?

— Don’t you know he’s dead? says Joe.

— Paddy Dignam dead? says Alf.

— Ay, says Joe.

— Sure I’m after seeing him not five minutes ago, says Alf, as plain as a pikestaff.

— Who’s dead? says Bob Doran.

— You saw his ghost then, says Joe, God between us and harm.

— What? says Alf. Good Christ, only five… What?… and Willie Murray with him, the two of them there near what-doyoucallhim’s… What? Dignam dead?

— What about Dignam? says Bob Doran. Who’s talking about… ?

— Dead! says Alf. He is no more dead than you are.

— Maybe so, says Joe. They took the liberty of burying him this morning anyhow.

— Paddy? says Alf.

— Ay, says Joe. He paid the debt of nature, God be merciful to him.

— Good Christ! says Alf.

Begob he was what you might call flabbergasted.”

Happy New Year!

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Happy Bloomsday

Happy Bloomsday everybody! Hope the sun is shining for you today.

There’s a whole range of events organised to commemorate Joyce’s iconic Ulysses which was based on this day 107 years ago. It may all that time ago, but Bloomsday has grown over the years to now become quite a varied and established festival, not just in Dublin but worldwide too – in fact there are over 40 events organised in locations across the globe for Bloomsday this year – view my oh so nifty Google Map here.

Other than that, if you’re a Dubliner, you can enjoy some breakfast at the Gresham, readings and music in Stephen’s Green (11am – 2pm, and later on music from 6 until 8pm) and if that’s not your cup of tea (when I makes tea I makes tea – sorry inner Joycean is coming out!), there’s a Bloomsday Pub Quiz on in the Westin from 8.30 pm. Have a look at the full Bloomsday program here.

DCTV have featured Blooomsday as part of their We’re At series here, you can view episode one below where Mark and Stacey from the Joyce Centre speak about what to expect over Bloomsday:

We’re At Bloomsday Episode 1 from Were At… on Vimeo.


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