Cyclops – New Theatre – Review
Cyclops by Peter Reid, adapted from Ulysses by James Joyce
Until Jun 24th @ 7.30pm – Duration: 70 minutes
The year is 1904 and the setting is a small pub owned by Barney Kiernan. It is a bar like many others of its era, filled with a motley crew of drinkers. Leopold Bloom enters the bar as he is looking for Martin Cunningham. He does not find Martin but decides to wait for him, talking to the diverse individuals inside. They include the bar owner Kiernan and a local drunk by the name of Bob Doran. There is our unnamed narrator along with Joe Hynes, who he met on the street outside. The other person in the bar is a distasteful character known only as the Citizen, who has strong anti-Semitic viewpoints.
With Bloomsday on the 16th of June, it is no surprise that this work should be staged. This is a play written by Peter Reid, which has been adapted from Ulysses. It is an attempt to stage the Cyclops episode of the book, which is written from the perspective of an unknown denizen of Dublin. The chapter also includes a number of tangents on unrelated matters such as legal issues and Irish mythology. The play faithfully represents these elements.
The stage has been turned into a simple public house, with a bar on one side of the stage, along with a table and chairs. There are six members of the cast and they are on stage for almost the full duration. Paul Kealyn plays the boorish Citizen, who sits at the bar spouting Fenian rhetoric and takes an instant dislike to Bloom. Stephen Dalton plays Bloom as a complex man in amongst savages. He is a man of words and science and seems lost on his vulgar audience.
In a sense, the play is too faithful to its source material, as the unusual side stories add little to the work overall. As you would expect from an adaptation of a section of a novel, there is no clear story arc and some prior knowledge of the characters is required. This episode of the book was used by Joyce to explore the prejudice that Bloom experiences in daily life, and these moments are when the play really comes to life. The barbed comments and sharp dialogue between the inhabitants of the bar make for uncomfortable viewing as it works to its striking finale.