James Joyce (Adapted by Dermot Bolger): Ulysses, Abbey Theatre, Dublin (Director: Graham McLaren)
By Sascha Krieger
This summer, Dublin’s two major theatres are diving into the collective identity of Ireland’s capital city. While the Gate has a somewhat harmless stab at one of the most popular expressions of modern, post-Church-state Ireland with Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper, the Abbey, traditionally the space for discussions about and definition of Irish identity, takes on the book that put Dublin on the map, in literature and the mind of the world, and has influenced the way the city is looked at ever since: James Joyce’s Ulysees. Even so, its Dublin-ness might not be the key aspect of this mammoth of a novel: the way it has revolutionised story-telling, the way it presents the world through streams and puddles and rivers of consciousness, unconsciousness and fantasy, the way it represents a fragmented, non-objective perception of reality has radically changed this very perception and collective awareness of it. And literature, too, for that matter. A theatre adaptation naturally has to make choices, cannot do justice to the novel’s achievements in their entirety. But even with this caveat, Dermot Bolger’s adapation and Graham McLaren’s production leave much to be desired. Way too much, to be honest.