Archive for August 23rd, 2012

JOYCED!

Joyced –Assembly 4.45pm

 

There are two separate and very different schools of thought when it comes to James Joyce’s uber-novel, Ulysses, in twentieth century literature. One is that it is the greatest book ever written and changes the reader’s whole attitude to how books should be written and read whilst the opposing view is that it is an impenetrable bore and merely a dictionary in the wrong order. I subscribe to the latter view and was forced to read the damn thing during my tenure as a student and this play was a means of seeing whether I had perhaps judged it too harshly.

I have attempted to read it since the time I was force fed it to see whether it became any clearer, but to little avail and seeing this show was a way of discovering whether its prizes would eventually reveal themselves to me. Unfortunately the theatre this production is set in is the very lecture theatre where I sat and found more interest in the plain walls and an errant crack in the ceiling than Joyce’s stream of consciousness discourse.

Written by Donal O’ Kelly ,directed by Sorcha Fox and performed by Katie O’Kelly Joyced is a swift flight through Dublin in 1904, the year Ulysses is set in. On her journey which begins with Kelly in a very fetching pair of black wings she takes in a whirlwind tour of the city encountering the people who became the basis for the main characters in Ulysses as well as Joyce , his wife Nora-the inspiration for Molly Bloom- alongside other members of his family.

Kelly gives a great performance dipping in and out of characters seamlessly and capturing the essence of them intuitively. It is clear she has studied her subject matter and can imbue the characters with their defining nuances and conjure up something totally believable.

The dialogue is delivered at a breakneck speed and I must admit I found it hard to follow-much like Ulysses- and eventually gave up and submitted to just enjoying the performance without having a clue what was going on. Devotees of Joyce will love this show and there were many gathered outside before the performance discussing the book and the whole Joycean myth. Unfortunately it merely convinced me that despite a desire to get to grip with the book this show convinced me that perhaps I should continue to read literature I actually understand and enjoy and leave Ulysses to these converts and scholars.

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THE 27 CLUB

The 27 Club-Assembly 6pm

 

When the news first broke in April 1994 that Kurt Cobain had blown his brains out, one of his mother Wendy’s earliest reported reactions was of anger that her son had ‘joined that stupid club’. The club she was referring to was the 27 Club of the title of this show wherein each member has burnt themselves out usually through drink or drugs but always via life in the fast lane. It is a strange juxtaposition to place so many tales of debauchery and the dark depths of the demi-monde as a piece of musical theatre but while the sequences involving classic songs of the deceased-especially Hendrix’s Purple Haze– are more than adequately handled, the original material sounds incongruous and clunky in comparison.

Beginning with Robert Johnson’s premature death in the nineteen thirties it fast forwards to 1969 and Brian Jones- who many consider the founding member of the club and pretty much indisputably the first rock and roll casualty- and here is where the mythologies and conspiracy theories start to abound. Hendrix, Janis Joplin –who is described as an ‘unconventional beauty’ though I am unsure just how unconventional beauty would have to be before she could be included- and probably the most iconic member of the clan the sometime Lizard King Jim Morrison, followed Jones’s lead in an unbelievably and disturbingly swift fashion. Things settled down for a while-amongst major players anyway- until Cobain’s suicide in the nineties and then last year Amy Winehouse joined the live fast,  die young, stay pretty brigade.

The conspiracy theories which surround several of these stars are superfluous and only further the legend with little proof. Therefore rumours of Brian Jones ‘s murder by an irate builder, Hendrix’s forced intoxication or most notoriously Morrison’s totally faked death remain exactly that and no new evidence is offered up.

These people were on the road to destruction via their own choices anyway and most of them looked ravaged and older than their years- the beauty and sex appeal which made Jones and Morrison such huge icons was a distant memory at the time of their deaths. As for the two most high profile women-Joplin and Winehouse- maybe they spend their time hanging out at the club bar bemoaning the fact they both ended their days looking like tragic drag queens;  dragged up, drugged out and drunken parodies of their former strong selves.

This show skims over all these issues and serves it up as a variety show with some familiar tunes. The music is a more than passable facsimile of the classics they cover but it is more of a nostalgia trip for those who remember the seemingly unstoppable high death rate amongst musicians in the late sixties and early seventies. It is a more than passable show but unfortunately, for me, it just didn’t resonate with any rock and roll attitude considering its subject matter.

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