Photo by Sarah Nicolazzo
2011 AN IRISHMAN AND A JEW GO INTO A PUB
AT THE UNION THEATRE, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
Director Brenda Addie
Adapted from the Cyclops chapter of Ulysses by
Graeme Anderson, Sian Cartwright, Frances Devlin-Glass, and Roslyn Hames.
Narrator, a tax-collector: Phil Roberts
A Celtic Queen/Narrator: Susannah Frith
The Citizen: Jason Cavanagh
Leopold Bloom, an Irish Jew: David John Watton
Joe Hynes, a bar-fly: Silas James
Alf Bergan, a bar-fly: Jim Wright
The beloved of the Executed Patriot: Sarah Nicolazzo
Lighting Design and Operation: Mark Delaney
Set and Costume Designer, Set Construction: Sarah Nicolazzo
Joyce’s Homeric allusion to the one-eyed Cyclops and his monstrous cave are key motifs in this production. Joyce sets the scene in Barney Kiernan’s pub, which was a real tavern at 8-10 Little Britain St, north of the Liffey, and not far from the Dublin market, the Four Courts, and St. Michan’s Church. It was a ‘themed’ pub: Barney Kiernan collected souvenirs of crime and punishment and refreshed his exhibits continually. So it is an appropriate setting for talk of martyrs and victims, and for prurient drinkers of all kinds, and, in a mock heroic gesture to Homer, for missiles and violence.
The chapter is heavily freighted with Irish history and offers an anti-colonial spin on Ireland’s past. The Citizen is no slouch as an historian: he knows the heroes and their exploits but Joyce is not above co-opting a few more celebrities to his cause; the Citizen cites chapter and verse on uprisings and their vicissitudes, and on colonial abuses in the far-flung parts of European empires like the Belgian Congo. Indeed, the British Consul and Irish patriot, Roger Casement’s writings on human rights abuses in the Congo rubber trade was news in 1904, the date on which Ulysses is set. Joyce’s mentioning Casement positively in 1922 (the novel’s publication date) was counter-cultural, as he’d been executed for his part in conspiring with the Germans at the time of the Easter Rising, traduced as a homosexual, and, despite his nationalist credentials, was not yet enrolled as one of the nationalist heroes.
Most impressively, the Citizen is full-bottle on the economic history of Ireland and how British protectionism had destroyed a raft of Irish industries. Where Joyce sits in all this, to what extent the Citizen’s actions condemn him, and how far Joyce agreed with his jingoism, and his history, is a matter for intense debate among the scholars.
Translating this chapter into theatre has been a huge challenge. The prose scintillates with upwards of 30 parodies in various styles, many of them archaic Irish styles, which interrupt the narrative in the bar. Some of the finest poetry of the chapter is to be found in them, and they too are learned, rich in both tribute and satire. One cannot engage in parody or pastiche without loving what one imitates. The baroque excursions with which Joyce litters the chapter sometimes comment on the action in the bar, but sometimes not. Sometimes they engage in the politics of mock-heroic, inflating and deflating in turns. The Bloomsday scripters have had to foreshorten most of these, but hope you will enjoy the virtuosity of the fragments that survived.
As always, however dispiriting the scene in the bar is, and it is a crucifixion which Bloom suffers at the hands of anti-semites, Joyce is adept at keeping our hearts up. The production shows the long-suffering Bloom at is morally heroic best, satirises his nasty traducers, and brings to the fore those extravagant parodies, that do so much to breathe fresh life into old traditions.
WHAT THE CRITICS AND PATRONS
HAD TO SAY
Readers of ‘Ulysses’ readily remember that this episode comprises a kind of parallel text. Realistic accounts of the rantings and ravings of a bunch of boyos at the bar are interleaved with mock-heroic passages in celebration of an older Ireland that may or may not have existed. The ‘Irish Twilight’ digressions were recited by an amazing actor (Susannah Frith) who went through more costume changes than David Bowie in his glam phase, each Magnificent Prose Rendition with a costume befitting the hyperbolic content, each more outrageous than the last.
An unsolicited review, published originally on the Bloomsday in Melbourne newsletter (now defunct)
Readers of Ulysses readily remember that this episode comprises a kind of parallel text. Realistic accounts of the rantings and ravings of a bunch of boyos at the bar are interleaved with mock-heroic passages in celebration of an older Ireland that may or may not have existed. The ‘Irish Twilight’ digressions were recited by an amazing actor (Susannah Frith) who went through more costume changes than David Bowie in his glam phase, each Magnificent Prose Rendition with a costume befitting the hyperbolic content, each more outrageous than the last.
Tintean, the Irish-Australian online magazine
The Cyclops chapter is a gory, rambunctious romp of words that -just like a drunk- threaten, bluster and insult, and then segue into orotund rodomontades of Special pleading and unreliable patriotic histories.
Brenda Addie and the Bloomsday writers have pulled off an extraordinary achievement...and make them live for an audience
Jason Cavanagh as the Citizen and his dog, Garryowen.
Their unsolicited comments
From Don Sweeney, patron, 23 June 2011
This year's Bloomsday was simply exceptional. While the Joycean elements were as enjoyable and challenging as ever, it was clear that the director, the writers and designers and cast had wrought an outstanding spectacle within a very complex framework. I even had trouble believing that I was viewing the first public performance - the standard of performance, the diction, the caricatures, and the intensity created were testament to the professionalism and skill of the whole team. Simply exceptional.
Silas James played Joe Hynes
THE BLOOMSDAY SEMINAR
at the Open Theatre, University of Melbourne