2016 A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Director Wayne Pearn
Stephen Dedalus: Matthew J. Dorning
Mother Superior: Steve Gome
May Dedalus, Prostitute, Priest: Christina Costigan
Simon Dedalus and others: Steven Dawson
Cranly and others: Liam Gillespie
Fr Conmee: Silas James
Tram Girl/Bird Girl: Marian Griffin
Dante, Nun: Kylie Bell
The 2016 Bloomsday in Melbourne festival celebrated 100 years since the first publication of Joyce’s first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Bloomsday’s centrepiece play, directed by Wayne Pearn at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane was a sell-out and played to rapturous houses (note to Steve: this could link to a page of patron comments, see below). Matt Dorning's Stephen Daedalus was a rebel with a cause, a rebel without pause – taking on the immense job of freeing himself from the assumptions of his family, his tribe, his church, his nation, and the art tradition he inherited.
Part of the comedy arose from the dramatisation of the voices of his education as two nuns (played by Steve Gome and Kylie Bell). The long sermon of Chapter 3 gave another opportunity to relish the excesses of Joyce’s language and of the convention of the sermon on hell and to show how such pyrotechnics cowed the boy. They were additions to the Joyce universe and were deployed expressionistically to render some of Stephen’s inner speech, internalised moral directives and also to educate the audience in the finer points of Catholic practice and thinking., the better to understand the tortured hero.
Wayne Pearn inventively set this imaginative adaptation in the Garden of Eden. How would Stephen make use of what his family, church and tradition have on offer, which is so seductive, and at the same time free himself from their constraints, and be human? It was a searing and comedic account of the ties that bind individuals to their society, and the need to challenge them.
WHAT THE CRITICS AND PATRONS HAD TO SAY
Writing for Theatre People
Bloomsday in Melbourne’s adaptation of the work, directed by Wayne Pearn, is a fine tribute to the first work of a literary great. With solid performances from the entire cast – not a single slip from the strong Irish accents—it was a vibrant, interesting insight into the cultural shift that occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century. Matthew J. Dorning shone as the central character, Stephen Dedalus, hitting every beat of his long monologues with a near-perfect Irish intonation. He brought a rigorous energy to the stage, and his transformation from dedicated theological student to brash atheist and intellectual was a measured and thoughtful journey, with moments of stunning imagery.
Image (right): Matthew Dorning as Stephen Dedalus - photo by Bernard Peasley
Tintean, the Irish-Australian online magazine
Matthew Dorning (who strongly resembles a young James Joyce) was Stephen Dedalus, and had an engaging and charismatic presence. The ensemble of seven actors provided characters, a chorus, narrators and set scenes for Dorning to enact crucial moments of Joyce’s narrative. Christina Costigan deserves a special mention for her powerhouse yet nuanced performances of Stephen’s mother, a prostitute, and in particular the Sermoniser, who shrivels Stephen’s emerging self and sexuality with his description of the eternal torments of Hell. The chanting of the Litany of Our Lady (‘Mystical Rose, Tower of Gold …’) was a reminder of the often sublime lyricism of the liturgy of the Catholic Church and how it informed Joyce’s language.
Their unsolicited comments
the performance tonight was absolutely brilliant, the cast were all exceptional. Wayne, your sound track needs to be published and that woman deserves an Oscar, what incredible voice projection she has. What a fantastic contribution you all make, really very impressive.
I think the nun's chorus was entirely appropriate as an evocation of the voices SD is always hearing in his mind anyway.... Also worked for some very nice satire.
Image (right): Matthew Dorning as Stephen
THE BLOOMSDAY SEMINAR
at Papa Goose, 3pm, 16 June 2016
THE ARTIST AS REBEL AND HERO (?)
‘THE PORTRAIT – FIFTY YEARS AFTER, AND FIFTY YEARS ON’.
This is the story of two readings; the first, my own first reading, when the novel was fifty years old, and the second, now, on its centenary. Joyce’s brother Stanislaus once described the novel as a ‘lying autobiography and a raking satire’. Fifty years ago, I read the novel very much as an autobiography – my own, as much as that of James Joyce. Fifty years later, though, I find I begin to understand something of what Stanislaus might have meant, by invoking satire. Where, finally does James ‘stand’, in relation to Stephen? Where did he seem – for the reader – to stand, a hundred years ago? Where did he stand for me, fifty years ago? How should we read it now? And how will we see them both, another fifty years on?
Michael Meehan is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University. He is the author of four novels and in 2000 won the NSW Premier’s prize for his first novel, The Salt of Broken Tears. He presently raises sheep in the Macedon Ranges.
‘PORTRAIT AND LOVE SONG: THE MODERNIST MASKS OF JOYCE AND ELIOT AS YOUNG MEN AND ARTISTS’.
JANET STRACHAN :
Both T. S. Eliot and James Joyce sought to escape from the cult of personality, ‘the egotistical sublime’ of the Romantic artist. For Eliot, ‘poetry…is an escape from personality’ while for Joyce, ‘the personality of the artist…refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself…’ This paper will draw from the early work of both great Modernists, particularly ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ to explore the ways in which these texts were revolutionary, not only in language and setting, but also to what extent they refined the artists’ own experiences into art.
Janet Strachan, who grew up in the West of Wales just across the Irish Sea from Dublin, is a retired Literature teacher with a particular interest in the poetry of T. S. Eliot. She confesses that she is not an expert on James Joyce, nevertheless hopes to cast light on his early work by placing it in the context of Modernism.