Tag Archives: James Joyce

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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Judging Books by their Covers

So I love my Kindle. I do. It comes with me everywhere without weighing me down. At the moment, I can haul around an entire copy of Ulysses, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Trainspotting, The Lord of the Flies and about 20 more novels without my poor aul shoulders feeling the slightest pressure. Much and all as I love the convenience of my Kindle, there is something I miss about the real life book.

Its cover.

I do judge books by their covers. I love it when a cover really says something about the style of the book like this epic cover of the Gabler edition of Ulysses, which just says ‘this is an important book’.

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In contrast there’s endless other covers of Ulysses, including one of the latest editions by Sam Slote, which is really cool looking, and definitely softens the ‘epic’  and ‘monstrous’ look of its Gabler predecessor, as well as hinting at the time element to the novel (all within one day and recounting various times in each episode):

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I went on a wee bit of a hunt today in Hodges and found these gems:

Dubliners – Penguin Essentials, this reminds me of the artwork for the Great Gatsby at the moment:

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In comparison to this edition I have (looks more like a Charles Dickens novel):

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Vintage Yeats (cover illustration by Carolina Melis) – you can’t really see the detail on this but it does look like embroidery close up:

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And a sexy collection of Beckett plays designed by A2/SW/HK for Faber and Faber

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Within authors and genres, there’s a variance of style. Yeats has an appreciation for the softer, more traditional arts while Beckett is a bit more daring, and obviously minimalist. It’s great to see this combination of art subgenres to produce a sort of hybrid piece of art that’s a design piece ‘covering’ a literary piece. It’s definitely the way forward for publishing.

Newspapers are becoming more pretty, as are novels. There’s a lot of competition on those bookshop shelves and the more interesting and attractive a novel looks, the more likely the customer is to pick it up. It’s the one thing the ‘real life’ novel can hold on to.

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Wonderland’s Dubliners CD Launch

If you’ve already read my review of Wonderland Productions’ Dubliners audio walking tour, then you’ll know I’m a fan. An audio walking tour immersing the walker into the stories of Dubliners with the sounds and music appearing as you visit locations scattered across the city; the tour is a great opportunity for readers of Joyce to bring the stories to life.

CD front cover Dubliners_ResizedStaring out the window, you may feel a little reluctant at the prospect of staring at Joyce’s grey Dublin with the wind and rain beating your face, so the company’s newly released CD version of the tour is just the ticket.

For me the beauty of the stories is that they are unlike your average audio book as the stories have been carefully edited to make them all about the dialogue and sounds and less about the prose itself. The narrative sections have been partially removed and in some instances changed into dialogue so that the listener gets a more 360 view of the story than they would with a traditional reading of each story.

The acting cast is wonderful – melodious Dublin accents skip their way through the stories, inviting you to become part of each event.

If you’d like to experience the actual walking tour (which I’d highly recommend) you can do so by starting off from the James Joyce Centre on North Great George’s Street or if you fancy cuddling up on the couch and experiencing Joyce’s Dublin through CD – maybe opening up Google Street View as you do, then you can download the album on iTunes ($9.99) or purchase the CD on Amazon (£19.41).

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