Tag Archives: James Joyce

Review: Dubliners at The Gaiety Theatre

‘The grey warm evening of August had descended upon the city, and a mild warm air, a memory of summer, circulated in the streets. The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below, which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging, unceasing murmur.’

Beautiful words to begin the rather crude story of Two Gallants, which at the time of its creation was refused at first by the printer. How stunning then that two bawdy ladies of the night recite these lines agains the background of a garish pink backdrop in Dubliners’ stage adaptation currently playing at The Gaiety.

As part of the audience at the Corn Exchange‘s Dubliners this evening I was reminded again about how superb Joyce was at creating characters that are at the same time amazing and ordinary. This production, through its heavily stylised staging and dramatic acting has managed to keep true to Joyce’s style by creating a production that, while not without flaw, tells the story of ordinary people in a way that is truly extraordinary.

Of Dubliners’ 15 short stories, playwright Michael West chose nine to stage. The choice is interesting and I agreed to it for the most part but felt that it could have survived better without The Boarding House and A Mother while the production definitely lacked the presence of A Little Cloud and Araby.

Beginning with Two Sisters was a logical choice but I felt gave the production a lacklustre start, while An Encounter actually gave the the energy it needed to capture the audience – Mark O’Halloran’s performance is fantastic here and had the audience in stitches.

Eveline, A Painful Case, Two Gallants and Counterparts are all very well staged and keep to the original text quite a lot with a few side comments added to the characters’ dialogue which is a wonderful way of making Joyce’s text more accessible for the general reader, but for any diehard Joyceans I can see it getting quite irritating.

Transitions between the stories seem to have caused the company some problems – and I felt this could have been done more seamlessly – perhaps with characters gradually appearing and stories beginning while others were ending – maybe this could weaken meaningful endings however. For example, the transition for the rather slap stick humour of A Mother into the poignancy of The Dead was a bit problematic.

The decision to edit The Dead in such a way confuses me. The world over raves about this story – it is the most popular, most read, and polished of all of Joyce’s work so why edit it? A whole chunk of the story is missing and I felt it a little silly to presume the story would work without the back story of Gabriel and Greta’s marriage, their family live and place in society, which all work to build the story up to this beautiful final moment. I think the second half would have worked better if A Mother had been taken out and the full version of The Dead included.

The production is a real accomplishment for the Corn Exchange and I’d highly recommend it. I was disappointed with some of the decisions the company made but as a piece of theatre it is wonderfully entertaining, poignant, aesthetically very beautiful and of course, truly Dublin.


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Review: Wonderland Productions’ Dubliners Walking Experience

Joyce said of Ulysses, ‘I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book’, however the same could be said of his collection of short stories Dubliners.

A collection of 15 beautifully constructed short stories; Dubliners dips gently into the lives of a host of characters living in Dublin city around the beginning of the twentieth century. Even though Joyce wrote most of his work whilst living outside of Ireland, Dublin is perhaps one of his biggest and most influential characters in his work. Which is why it is a mecca for lovers of Joyce’s work, who come every year to explore the city that inspired one of the world’s greatest writers.

All this has led theatre producer Alice Coughlan to down her theatre tools and assemble quite a large cast of inspirationally-voiced actors, whom she recorded reading various selections of text from a number of different stories in Dubliners. What results is a tiny little mp3 player, which holds some beautiful recordings of these fabulous stories. However, Wonderland Productions’ Dubliners Walking Experience is not just about the recordings, it involves a map and the city of Dublin also. Slipping on your headphones and heading out onto these historical streets, you are immersed deep into each story.

To really make the experience effective, Coughlan has reworded and restructured some of the work to include more dialogue in each story, so that the characters can tell their stories more than the narratorial voice originally in the story. Two Gallants in particular is very striking, walking down Rutland Square (known to today’s Dubliner as Parnell Square East), we earwig on Lenehan and Corley discussing the generosity Corley has managed to receive from a certain lady friend.

The highlight for me was The Dead – the most striking story in the collection, it has its home in Usher’s Island and also The Gresham. While The Gresham piece wasn’t as poignant as it could have been due to the ridiculous amount of Dublin buses crawling by, the house on Usher’s Island was particularly special. Entering the house, you sit and listen to Lily the Caretaker being literally rushed off her feet and Gabriel making his entrance, peeling off his galoshes. Climbing up the stairs, we enter the drawing room and hear the wonderful music and conversation. We find the dining room is set for dinner and take our place at the table to listen to the dinner conversation. Arriving back downstairs, we gaze up the stairs as The Lass of Aughrim floats through the air – if there was anything that ironically could bring The Dead to life, it was this moment.

Various other stories are mapped out, with stops scattered across the city – the Church on Meath Street, Temple Bar, Ely Place, St. Stephen’s Green – they’re all packed in there in a half day tour that took us near on five hours to complete. There’s a full day tour available also which takes you out to Chapelizod as well as the city centre. The tour was extremely impressive, not just by how well the extracts have been delicately reworked in parts, and carefully recorded, but also by how well they bring the stories to life when listened to on site. It may perhaps be a bit too long for someone who isn’t entirely head over heels in love with Joyce, perhaps a shortened version taking about two hours long would be a more attractive activity, but for anyone who loves Joyce and would like to experience his work being really and truly brought to life, then it’s a must.

Visit the Wonderland Productions website for more information.

Tours take place every day, beginning at the Dublin Writer’s Museum, Parnell Square, with tickets starting from €10.


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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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