2000 ANTIPODEAN JOYCE IN NORTH MELBOURNE
Connections with Australia, that which is upside down, reversed, inverted, fresh and startling to the view, and other-footed were the foci of Bloomsday 2000. The connections with Australia are quite arcane and byzantine, and many of them known only to the committee before Bloomsday, so it was a delight to follow the meanderful, neanderthal footpaths as the day progressed.
A TALE OF TWO RIVERS: NORTH MELBOURNE AND DUBLIN 1904
Murray-Darling Embraces Anna Livia, and Everybody is Somebody Else
at 11am in the Food Court at Victoria Market
The first thread of the antipodean was unloosened in the opening event. The script began under the sign of the fish and on top of the subterranean river with the sounds of the morning on the Murray River bank as the bushmen fished for what had not been seen for 10 years and listened to the talk of a Rigby whose language and thinking is quite Bloomite. Then, another river came to life, an antipodean one in Dublin, with its washerwomen discussing the exploits of H.C.E. (a Humorous Character Example in Finnegans Wake).
From Anna Livia’s ample estuary, we were taken upstream to meet the nymph Poulaphouca at the Liffey’s source, there to observe Bloom’s discomfort as he was subjected to accusations by sundry non-human creatures. Returning again to the mouth, Anna Livia had metamorphosed into the River and two older women danced erotically preparing for Anna’s tryst (‘First she let her hair fal and down it flussed to her feet its teviots winding coils. Then, mothernaked, she sampood herself with galawater and fraguant pistania mud, wupper and lauar, from crown to sole. Next she greesed the groove of her keel’).
Maureen Andrew and Bonnie Truex, washerwomen and Poulaphouca nymphs of the River Liffey
COLLIDEORSCAPE:NORTH MELBOURNE AND DUBLIN 1904
Roz Hames, scripter of Collideorscape and Performer
More transformations and the audience was conducted through North Melbourne and Lotus Eaters by Calypso, a somewhat hippie-ish, Utopian nymph, and Nellie M., a facts-and-figures tour-guide. They functioned as an externalisation of Bloom’s thoughts and the contested space in his head where Bloom the idealist meets the hard-nosed realist. This script achieved something we’ve always hoped: to locate our study of Joyce in an urban reality and history circa 1904, and to explore that.
Setting out for Collideorscape, a peripatetic series of street theatre events, in North Melbourne.
historical landscape and sound its resonances with Dublin 1904. It permitted the airing of much history: North Melbourne’s rise out of the swamps in the decades after the goldrush, the property scams on which it was founded, the scandals of its hundreds of pubs which were delicensed and relicensed with dazzling speed and at the whim of local officials.
As usual, we attempted to find locations which spoke to sections of the novel, and so Spinifex Press, a proudly Lesbian scholarly press, was the ideal location for a dramatisation of Gerty’s misplaced and risible dreams (Cleo-inspired) of marriage to Reggie Wylie, or the handsome and mysterious gazer on Sandymount Strand. There was a certain satisfaction in putting Bloom in the shop window, mannequin-style.
And St. Joseph’s Christian Brothers’ College, opened on 13 February 1903, with its enthusiastic boys and teachers, was the place to enact several school-based scenes from the novels. The Legion of Mary headquarters in Australia furnished perhaps the most spectacular venue of all with its dark bluestone passage leading into its light-filled space upstairs. Here, Stephen’s repentance after his encounter with the prostitute was enacted.
Lancashire Lane behind the Court House Hotel, with its spectacular narrative anti-plumber graffito (who did what to whose lav, and who was suable and for how much), was the locus of a boxing match between Dublin’s Pet Lamb and the rather larger Crown, intercut with a narrative about the comings and goings of public-house licences. A Rolls-Royce halted before the Bloomsdayers crossing to the Town Hall, serving as a gracious block to traffic.
The Town Hall steps hosted two complementary visions, the midwives’ vision of Dublin from the top of the Nelson Pillar and Molly’s rather more nostalgic vision of Gibraltar when she was a girl. We swam in roses let down from a higher level again. The walking tour ended with a procession following the blind stripling into an optometrist who had a grand piano in his consulting room. A medley of eye-songs of the period were sung by Rod Baker and Maureen Andrew.
2000 Collideorscape script won an academic award for cultural excellence.
1.30pm Variety Meets at Cafe Hotel
Lunch was an occasion for a confluence of Australian and Joycean literary readings on food, and outrageous collaborative party games designed to test Joycean canniness. Bob and Dolly Dyer conducted proceedings. The Joycean bits came from The Dead, Lestrygonians and Shem the Penman; Australian writers weighed in with Lamb Dinner (Winton), a Buddlecombe party (Henry Handel Richardson) and Marion Halligan’s panoptic version of what a gourmand might eat and drink in a lifetime.
Bloomsday’s first Roaratorio on Elm St., North Melbourne
3.45pm Eine Kleine Word Musik on Elmstrasse (Uniting Church Hall, Elm St.)
This event began with an original a capella rendition of the phrases, noises and exclamations taken from the Sirens episode composed and sung by Rod Baker and Trish Shaw (Judy Pile and Stephen Grant made up the quartet of singers). In three movements, it explored sound and the percussiveness of language, Bloom’s pathos, and finally, its ideas via intertextual allusions, especially those with institutional referents. It was a witty and accomplished piece, and one that bears repetition. The second item on this program was a synopsis of Finnegans Wake, focussing on the ‘fall’ of HCE (Hirsute Canine Epic) which was run in parallel with an account of the life of Hugh Culling Eardley Childers, man of Empire, and the first Auditor-General and Inspector of Schools in Victoria, and also prototype for HCE. His story was told by a recent Auditor-General of Victoria, Mr. Ches Baragwanath. Further intercutting of relevant sections of Ulysses made clear how the idea of the fall was germane to Joyce’s writing from the earliest texts. There was much doffing of hats (bowlers, boaters, top hats and some delicate noddings of feathery hats in an Edwardian style). Mick Harvey heavily punctuated the four acts ( I The Courteous Act; II The Unspeakable Act; III The Reen- Act, or The Re-Act; IV The Act) with a bass drum and piano, and a Highly Complex Entertainer with variations on the names of HCE.
5pm Live-It or Cricket, North Melbourne Town Hall
Auditor-General ended with a cricketting metaphor for The Act, and this conceit was further elaborated when the Antipodean 1st Eleven spoke of how and why they read or fail to read Joyce. They were Barry Jones – polymath, Colleen Isaac – writer, David Mushin – psychotherapist, Trish Ni Ivor – Consultant, Jack Hibberd – playwright, Jill Kitson – broadcaster, David Sornig – student and writer, Gillian Hardy – actor, Shane Conway – doctor, augmented by the spirits of Shane B. Warned and Mark Beware, who couldn’t be with us due to corruption allegations and are currently writing their autobiographies, and Paddy Dignam as absentee Twelfth Man).
Many speakers made much of how Bloomsday had enhanced their understandings of Joyce and their motivation to read; one unlikely speaker talked about how she much preferred hearing the novel to reading it; several felt that they weren’t sure it was worth the effort, but kept trying anyway; the actor talked about how being forced to embody the prose was her most secure route into understanding; the psychotherapist spoke movingly about how he related to Bloom’s Jewishness and outsider-status because he identified with both; Barry Jones linked his reading of Ulysses to his entry to the Labor Party (both 50 years ago) and to his sense of the excitement of European letters in the ‘twenties, and his sense that Australia in the ‘fifties was utterly different, and Shane Conway was eloquent on how his reading of Joyce and Proust had almost cost him his career. Jack Hibberd related how different the novel seemed on the three widely spaced occasions on which he had read it. David Sornig invented a fictional alter-ego, Molly of Avila: who understood all and died, whereas he was content, like Trish Ni Ivor, to live and read other writers and write himself, and perhaps never fathom all the nuances of Ulysses.
7.30pm The Seven Ages of Joyce, SOKOL, Czechoslovakian Club.
This cabaret-style script was written by a committee. Taking Jacques’ ‘seven ages of man’ speech from As You Like It as a spine, it married Joyce’s life with the fictional ‘life’ of the works, and threw in songs from a variety of genres to amplify its meanings. Peter Finlay’s Joyce/Stephen was agile, subtle and intelligent. His Molly/Nora, played by Gandharvo Seaborn was earthy and savagely undercutting of her partner. Simon McGuinness’s vocal variety made him a very moving Narrator, especially in the closing sequences in Wakese.
And Bill Johnston and Maureen Andrew, in a variety of noisy and melodramatic roles, filled out a raft of characters. Jim Howard was a very Jewish Bloom. There were dozens of bit parts and singing roles (thanks to Jamie and Brendan of St. Joe’s, Geoff Baird and Greg Rochlin (piano and voice), Rod Baker (Irish? tenor), Ted Reilly (Fr. Conmee, Raving Irish Expert), Roslyn Hames (an exquisitely pained Lucia), Eugene O’Rourke (many priests), Philip Harvey (J. Alexander Dowie), Graeme Anderson (pathologist), Sean Armistead (many, many young men), Di Silber (Martha Gifford), Frances Devlin-Glass (Sylvia Beach), Peter Jones (Shakespeare) and Jack Hibberd as himself. The technical team (Elissa Anson and Matt Miller) were indefatigable throughout the day.
Philip Harvey wrote the report of the day.