From Dublin: Review of Ulysses

by Lynn on October 5, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland.

Written by James Joyce
Adapted by Dermot Bolger
Directed and designed by Graham McLaren
Musical director, Jon Beales
Puppetry designer and maker, Gavin Glover
Lighting by Kevin McFadden
Sound by Ben Delaney
Costumes by Niamh Lunny
Cast: Bryan Burroughs
Faoileann Cunningham
Caitriona Ennis
Donal Gallery
Raymond Keane
Garrett Lombard
Janet Moran
David Pearse

Molly Bloom: “I wish some man or other would take me sometime when he’s there and kiss me in his arms. There’s nothing like a kiss long and hot down to your soul almost paralyses you.”

Is it just me or is it getting hot in here. That James Joyce fellah sure could string words together to get anyone hot and bothered by the physical intoxication of sensual, hot sex. Or he could describe the depths of despair so that you too experience it down to your toes. I saw a copy of “Ulysses” in a bookstore here—I needed two hands to lift it. It of course is Joyce’s mammoth love letter to Dublin, sex, resilience, uncertainty, guilt and all manner of human subjects.

Dermot Bolger has done the impossible: he has adapted Ulysses for the stage to run two dazzling-packed hours. Director Graham McLaren has also done the impossible and directed this in part as a music hall extravaganza and odyssey through Dublin and environs as we follow Leopold Bloom through his day.

He is going to a friend’s funeral. He has adventures and misadventures on his way. He meets characters each individual, fully drawn, lively, dangerous, challenging and vibrant with the life of Ireland. Bloom’s wife Molly lays in bed for the most part, musing on Leopold and other men who made her long for that tight, hot embrace. David Pearse plays Bloom beautifully: bald, portly, and fastidiously dressed in a neat suit and bowler hat. His arguments against anti-Semitism are thoughtful and pointed. You see all the many sides of his devotion to Molly and his tendency to stray.

Janet Moran is glorious as Molly. She too is devoted to her husband but also thinks ‘what if.’ Her bed is the centre of the set. Often she is sleeping there as the action swirls around her. When she does rouse it’s to recount some experience or other, usually sexual, and her joy in the telling makes you want to cross your legs.

Occasionally puppets are used as characters. They are brilliant. There are tables and chairs on the stage where some audience members sit. The action takes place around them, on the tables they sit at and occasionally a character sits at the table as well until he/she is engaged in a scene.

This is one glorious production. It almost makes you want to read the mammoth book.

Continues at the Abbey Theatre until Oct. 28.

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