2008 BRAVE NEW WORLD
DUBBLE IN IT: A ROARATORIO IN PRAISE OF THE PROGENITORS OF THE HUMAN GENOME
Director Brenda Addie
Bloom David Adamson
Stevie, & others Jane McArthur
Museum Guide, Molly, Bella/Bello Anna Scheer
Blazes Boylan, Al Gore & others Kirk Alexander
Dr Mulligan, & others Bill Johnston
Midwife Greg Rochlin
ABC Presenter Brenda Addie
Violinist/Flautist Kevin Lo
IT artist, creator of Avatars, website Cassandra Williams
Lighting Scott Allen
Bloomsday in 2008 consisted of two shows - an arcade style show, Brave New World, about science and modernity and Joyce's take on it, at Melbourne Museum, and a musical, Dubble-In-It, A Roaratorio by Philip Harvey and and Rod Baker, inspired by Finnegans Wake.
The encyclopaedic quality of Joyce’s fiction means that finding a new route through Joyce annually is one of the ongoing pleasures of mounting Bloomsday festivals. In 2007, we gave the Jesuits and religion a run and came to the conclusion that his oeuvre, in particular its poetry, was unthinkable without factoring in what he learnt about language from the Litany of the Virgin, and Jesuitical sermons.
Experience has taught us that, immediately one makes a statement about Joyce’s preoccupations, the opposite also seems true. Joyce may have been a supersaturated jejune Jesuit, but he was also curious about secularism, science, and all aspects of newfangled modernities. Stephen may be the intellectual and the poet in the novel, but in his own way, Bloom is both of those things, and more, a philosopher manqué. What may escape notice is how much Bloom’s autodidact’s passion for the new, half-grasped as it often is, leads him into philosophical enquiry of a semi-rational kind.
Our arcade-show at the museum is designed to point up the differences between Dublin 1904 and Melbourne 2008, especially in the areas of science and new media, and their impact on a secular mind. The museum and its artifacts give us many points of reference. What do a collection of ruins tell us about the hubris of modern cities? Bloom has views on this. What kinds of entertainments were available to a lower middle-class man in Dublin, and what would he make of film (which had not reached Ireland in 2004: Joyce would attempt, and fail, to set up the first cinema in Dublin in 1910)? And cctv? And self-promotion via the internet, and the imaginative multiple-self-creation of cyber identities (avatars)? Or did he anticipate avatars in Circe? What can a novel do that film/video can do? What more? His postergirl pinup, carefully removed from a photography magazine, and framed and hung above the marital bed, was new and saucy technology in 1904, but what does Joyce make of it and do with it? Bloom’s clear-headed responses to postmodern simulations became an insistent thematic of Brave New World?, though we’re not confident his maker would agree with him.
Reclamation of the ancient poetry of Ireland was a passion in Ireland in the hands of the Revivalists from the 1880s, so why does Joyce parody it? How much enjoyment and appreciation is there in his recreation of the giant-heroes of the ancient Irish epics? The museum’s painting by Lin Onus gives us opportunities to show Bunjilaka’s witty inversion as being something of a parallel to Joyce’s moves in Ulysses.
The museum’s magnificent animal displays in the Science and Life galleries were irresistible. We know Bloom’s feelings for cats, dogs (Garryowen who gets a Guernsey in the first scene) and horses, but what would he make of antipodean mammals? We could only guess, and this is a rare moment when we put our words into Bloom’s mouth. Mostly he speaks Joyce’s words, and so we’ve provided details in the program about the chapters mined for various events of the promenade.
Joyce’s secularism extended to a profound involvement in the new medical science of his day, especially psychiatry, which he saw close-up in trying to find cures for Lucia, his daughter’s schizophrenia. We make a foray into the Mind and Body galleries to enjoy his fun at their expense, though it is wise to remember that Jung deeply admired Ulysses and found in it (presumably Nausicaa, Circe and Penelope) more wisdom about women’s psychology than possessed by the devil.
Water is a central symbol in Bloom’s homespun (but deep) philosophy, so we give a run both to the Poulaphouca nymph (who hails from the headwaters of the Liffey and is an avatar of the Photobits girl) and to Al Gore, water- and climate-change warrior of our times.
The putative great, great, great grand-daughter, Stevie, whom we see as being genetically linked to both Molly and Milly, is, of course, our own invention, a spokeswoman for us and our century, a Melbourne-phile like ourselves, and a bridge between two centuries. We have made her as honest and reality-based as her great, great, great grandfather, so she too has some awful surprises for the humane Bloom.
DUBBLE-IN-IT, a Roaratorio based on words taken from all over Finnegans Wake is the second such oratorio staged by Bloomsday in Melbourne. Some patrons with long memories will be taken back to the church in North Melbourne and to Ches Baragwaneth playing the Auditor-General/HCE.
The best advice we can give for understanding Joyce’s Wakese is to listen, and suspend momentarily that insistent urge we all have to make complete sense of all utterances, and to surrender to multilingual punniness. It’s an invitation to play. Joyce, we believe, was profoundly thoughtful on the subject of gender, gender differences, the possibility of inversions – the he-ness and she-ness of us all. We take a lead too from Joyce’s eclectic musical tastes, extending as they did from street songs, via pop to the classical repertoire. We fancy, with his rings and smart clothes, he not only sang, but tangoed in Paris restaurants in the twenties and thirties. The elegance of the symbolism and chemistry of the double helix would, we think, have made great sense to Joyce.
CITYFUL PASSING AWAY, OTHER CITYFUL COMING, PASSING AWAY TOO: OTHER COMING ON, PASSING ON. HOUSES, LINES OF HOUSES, STREETS, MILES OF PAVEMENTS, PILEDUP BRICKS, STONES. CHANGING HANDS. PYRAMIDS IN SAND. BUILT ON BREAD AND ONIONS. SLAVES, CHINESE WALL. BABYLON. BIG STONES LEFT. ROUND TOWERS. REST RUBBLE.
Peter Kiernan gives an account of Brave New World?
The generous and varied spaces of the Melbourne Museum provided a perfect setting for this Joycean excursion. Memorable moments were spent listening to the rich and challenging language of Joyce in the beautiful Milarri Garden, in the Forest Gallery (remember it was a sparkling sunny day), in front of the Harry John’s Boxing Troop Bus (Harry’s bus was a reminder of imperial conflicts expressed through sport both in Australia and Ireland) and so on.
Roz Hames reviewed Dubble In It for Tintean
The potententials and particularities of our chromosomes, first explained by Joyce as the double helix seven years before it was discovered, were traversed from Tango blustering to a hallelujah chorus and silly walks in between.
DAVID ADAMSON AS BLOOM, RUMINATING ON THE FATE OF CITIES AND CIVILISATIONS
PATRON EUGENE O'ROURKE
A POULAPHOUCA NYMPH AT MELBOURNE MUSEUM
BLOOMSDAY SEMINAR 2008
Seminarians in 2008
Wolfgang Eubel: Joyce and the Revolution of 1923
Barry Cleland and Philip Harvey: Joyce’s Working Knowledge of the Universe