Ulysses – Abbey Theatre – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Until Oct 28th.
This version of Ulysses was adapted for the stage by Dermot Bolger. The text reduces the massive volume into a relatively manageable form while still featuring all the major scenes. We see Molly (Janet Moran) and her husband Leopold Bloom (David Pearse), along with Stephen and Simon Dedalus (Donal Gallery and Raymond Keane respectively). The majority of the actors take on more than one part, playing various members of Dublin society as they explore that famous day in Dublin’s past; 16 June 1904. A day that Joyce chose to immortalise above all others.
The Abbey is transformed for this production. There are seats at what would normally be the back wall of the theatre. There are also chairs and tables on the stage itself that allow the audience to be face to face with the actors, immersed in their world. There are minimal props used, with a bar at one side and Molly’s bed centre stage. There is also a piano at the other side of the stage which is used for the musical numbers.
This is no flat or straight forward version, as the production uses puppets of various forms to illustrate the ghosts and reveries of the text. Music plays a big part in the production, and there is a hint of vaudeville in the air. As you enter the theatre, there is a recorded version of Waterloo played on piano, which is reminiscent of what HBO’s Westworld did with contemporary classics.
David Pearse is more reserved than he normally is on stage, but the character of Bloom is not known for his humour. He does have his moments though and a version of ‘A Nation Once Again’ will live long in the memory. Janet Moran plays Molly and spends most of the production in her bed dreaming of the men in her life. She captures the yearning and hunger of Molly with style. The other members of the cast largely move between characters and help expand the world, showing the average citizens of Dublin. Caitríona Ennis is responsible for many of the comedic moments and her gift for accents puts spice into many throw away lines.
Joyce’s original text is known for the variety of styles and ideas within it. This production may be trying to capture this, with its genre hopping techniques. There really is so much in this production, a smorgasbord of methods and forms. If you’re looking for a reverential production exploring the depth of characterisation within the novel, this is certainly not it. This is a lighthearted trip through Joyce’s world, pumping the piece with song and humour. However, it is the quieter moments that really capture the novel’s essence, and the sense of loneliness and passion Joyce hoped to explore. The liberties taken with the images and ideas may annoy those who hold it as scripture, but it will serve to introduce the novel to a new generation and might even provoke some of them to pick up the book itself without trepidation.
Bryan Burroughs: Lenehan & Ensemble
Faoileann Cunningham: Gerty & Ensemble
Caitríona Ennis: Milly & Ensemble
Donal Gallery: Stephen Dedalus & Ensemble
Raymond Keane: Simon Dedalus & Ensemble
Janet Moran: Molly Bloom
Garrett Lombard: Blazes Boylan & Ensemble
David Pearse: Leopold Bloom
James Joyce: Written by
Dermot Bolger: Adapted by
Graham McLaren: Directed & Designed by
Jon Beales: Musical Director
Gavin Glover: Puppetry Designer & Maker
Eddie Kay: Movement Director
Kevin McFadden: Lighting Designer
Ben Delaney: Sound Designer
Niamh Lunny: Costume Designer
Val Sherlock: Wigs & Make Up
Ciara Murnane: Associate Designer
Andrea Ainsworth: Voice Director
Kelly Phelan: Casting Director
Marie Tierney: Production Manager
Diarmuid O’Quigley: Stage Manager
Anne Kyle: Deputy Stage Manager
Audrey Rooney: Assistant Stage Manager