One person suspects that the last thing Edna O’Brien wants in response to her work is: “Isn’t she amazing for her age?”
Artistic output must stand without the insults of lust for pity.
And Joyce’s Women, for The Abbey and Eilene Davidson Productions, happily overcomes any temptation to indulge the “veteran” writer. Written to celebrate the centenary of the publication of UlyssesThe play, despite its many irregularities, is a finished work.
Having said that, it’s not exactly a balanced picture of the women in James Joyce’s life and the influences they had on him, big or small, good or bad. But that can be explained by the fact that in the realities of art history, women as lovers and/or contemplatives cannot claim their own intrinsic fame. Their claim to fame is in the dark.
The exceptions in Joyce’s case are the strong Galway woman Nora Barnacle, his wife and resistance to the vicissitudes of coastal life, and his daughter Lucia – “mentally disturbed”, no artistically and emotionally satisfying, and a tragically interesting character in her own right. And whether consciously or unconsciously, O’Brien wrote her play about Lucia Joyce, with her father as the setting for her story.
Of course, Lucia was also a victim and O’Brien was always honored in the notion that women were victims.
The play opens with May Joyce (Deirdre Donnelly), the author’s mother, a ghostly, complaining character who oscillates between ferocity and raw belligerence. Her aggression towards her son disturbs his focus but never his peace of mind. So she fades without leaving any mark on how deserving she is to be allowed to complain.
Tenacious Nora is another case. O’Brien portrays her as rooted in her steadfast passion, her life so dedicated to her Jim that she seems to be buried almost ankle-deep in his portrait. Brid Ni Neachtain. Ní Neachtain, a talented and versatile actress as well as a Galway woman, plays her with a Dublin accent for some unknown reason.
Martha Fleischmann (Caitríona Ní Mhurchú), one of the great men to come by, gets thrown in quite a bit, but Ali White is better suited as Harriet Shaw Weaver, who along with Sylvia Beach (uncredited by O’ Brien) supported the mainstay of the great man’s growing popularity.
But the play is Lucia’s, and Genevieve Hulme Beaman takes the opportunity with emotional hands, feet, and heart, aided by the author’s identification with her pain, and technically by the direction Justine Doswell’s move.
The text gives Lucia the wretched flesh, and Hulme Beaman revels in it with a combination of genuine fervor and growing detachment from reality.
If women other than Nora and Lucia are lackluster, James Joyce, the father of modern English literature, played by Stephen Hogan, is even more so.
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A dramatic force, he comes to life only in the final moments of the play, dedicated to his death in a Zurich hospital while his daughter fascinates with her illness history. , and his wife retreated into the stoicism that had often been her mainstay.
Director Conall Morrison had to balance the uneven structure of the play, which he did to great effect, aided by the high production value of Sabine Dargent’s soaring mirror windows, turned into perfectly structured and beautifully crafted movies. It is illuminated by Ben Ormerod with precise craftsmanship.
And aside from a slightly jarring note of Nora’s downfall (photographic evidence confirms her opulence, despite the couple’s financial troubles), Joan O’Clery’s outfit reflects the mood. and period.
The scenes end with the singing of Dublin ballads by Zozimus (Bill Murphy). It’s a somewhat bewildering musical caper, since the legendary balladeer died in the 1840s, but Murphy has a fine voice, while Conor Linehan’s score provides the background in the scene.
Dr. Eliot is anti-semiotic, snobby, elitist, optimistic, and supposedly unhappy. He displayed all of those qualities when he was instrumental in getting his wife to commit herself to an institute for “moral amnesia”, caused at least because she was “normal” enough. to love going to the discotheque. It was just an expression of his distaste for warmth and conjugal love.
He is also a genius. And in 1960, he wrote a fan letter to Groucho Marx, Vaudevillian, Jew and comic book master of double con man who turned his pain of rejection into membership of a country club (because of his Jewishness) was a joke: he wouldn’t want to be a member of a club to which he was a member.
Five years later, Marx called Eliot “a dear man,” when he spoke at the very appropriate funeral of the latter Supreme Anglican. Because they became friends, and had dinner together, as well as a rich exchange of letters.
And Frank McGuinness used that first dinner party as the starting point and exploration of humanity for his play. Dinner with Groucho (ab* spoke production for the Dublin Theater Festival at the Civic Theater in Tallaght).
And it’s an interesting, exciting discovery of humanity. Two of the “great men” of their time were in a restaurant somewhere in space, somewhere between heaven and earth, attended (and manipulated) by a mysterious and elegant owner.
There are probably waiters and at least one chef. But where are they? The two guests didn’t really care: they were manipulators after all.
Eliot’s poetry was acclaimed and influential; Groucho’s insane humor has gone a long way in freeing the English-speaking world from much of its anger in an age filled with fear. So they have a lot to talk about. What topics do they cover?
A lot of nonsense, a bunch of funny things related to the menu including chicken soup and steak. Eliot had frequented the restaurant; he knew that the owner would serve the steak as she chose, despite careful note of their particular preferences.
So they can also focus on drinks. Champagne, of course, is served with a magnificent taste. And time passed until they were faced with three empty bottles.
How delightful the passage of time was, performing tricks, songs, and dances.
It remains only to pay the bills. After just two courses, with Groucho getting off to a spectacular start, they were presented with a bill from a Tudor-era feast, countless dishes ranging from swans to the great auk, and enough to feed the King’s army. Henry.
After all, the owner reminds them, mistakes happen and it costs her to respond. Who is responsible in this crazy place? We can only guess.
And we do: the owner is us, the human race; and the two greats of literature and comedy find us perpetually bewildered and enigmatic.
It’s as simple as that.
McGuinness’ gameplay is devastating in its deceptive simplicity, a whirlwind of enticing humor to make our broken and shattered world viable even when it remains incomprehensible.
It reaches perfection in the choreography directed by Loveday Ingram and choreography by David Bolger, both perfectly interpreted by the cast, Ian Bartholomew as Groucho and Greg Hicks as Eliot: you are almost believe they are reincarnations of the original. And Ingrid Craigie is mysterious, small, charismatic and repulsive as the Owner.
Adam Wiltshire’s starry photo shoot is (literally) a rallying call to hope, lit by Paul Keogan, and sprinkled with Joan Bergin’s flawless outfits.
Dinner with Groucho will go to Belfast and London and, one suspects, many other locations when from around.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/genevieve-hulme-beaman-steals-the-show-in-joyces-women-at-the-abbey-42029993.html Genevieve Hulme Beaman steals the show in Joyce’s Women at the Abbey