The Dubliners Dilemma: A One-Man Mosaic

On blog duty this week is Aaron Finnegan, reviewing Declan Gorman’s The Dubliners Dilemma, a one man show exploring a pivotal moment in Irish literary history. Speaking of pivotal moments in Irish history, come see Panic Productions’ performance of Alone It Stands in the Droichead Arts Centre, tonight at 8!

The writings of James Joyce have been a subject of great debate and controversy for over a century, with the intimidating Ulysses retaining infamy since it’s initial publication in 1922 due to its complexity, experimentation with language and form, and deep understanding of naturalistic human thought. This vast novel often renders Joyce a literary titan, warding off prospective readers with the scope of his story.

However, an oft-forgotten benchmark in Joyce’s oeuvre is his first-published work, Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories that highlight the loves and lives of ordinary citizens of Ireland’s capital. With Dubliners, Joyce manages to peel back a layer, and expose what lies just beneath the surface of his native city, providing us with a sweet, tender, and ultimately beautiful view of the mundane. This makes Declan Gorman’s performance of The Dubliners Dilemma all the more impressive, as his one man performance brims with all the life and energy that Joyce surely wished to imbue in his work.

A mix of verbatim text, as well as a dramatisation of the struggle to have the then-controversial work published, The Dubliners Dilemma is an impressive display of one man’s love of literature. Gorman performs abridged versions of several of the poignant vignettes, while also taking the role of Joyce and his soon-to-be publisher as they wage a war of words, debating over matters of censorship and obscenity, outlining Joyce’s refusal to conform to modern standards.

From the moment Gorman begins, he somehow manages to fully embody Joyce, and his publisher, switching between the two sporadically as they argue over the content of the stories included. Stories such as An Encounter, Two Gallants, and Counterparts are brought to vivid life, as Gorman displays fully his deep understanding of Joyce’s text, his content, but most importantly, his voice, as he strolls seamlessly from one character to another, showing as much love for these characters as their creator surely felt. Gorman paints a detailed picture, weaving together a mosaic that flows brilliantly.

At no point in this clearly seasoned performance is Gorman without control of his environment. Making highly minimalistic use of props and costume, Gorman somehow manages to transform himself completely with the addition of just a few small pieces to distinguish between dozens of characters, remaining at all times utterly convincing, and fluid as he jumps from one beleaguered denizen of Dublin to the next, seemingly effortlessly. One can only hope that Gorman enjoys performing as much as his audience enjoy watching him perform. To summarise, The Dubliners Dilemma is a delight. From start to finish, Declan Gorman shows his prowess as an actor and literary aficionado, as he amazingly manages to give credence to an undisputed classic with as much dedication as anybody could ever dream of

-Aaron Finnegan

Critique Diplomatique- A Young Critics Review

Drum roll please! Having had his skills finely tuned over the course of two intense weekends of NAYD’s Young Critics bootcamp, Thomas Caffrey returns with his review of the spaceadelic epic, Corps Diplomatiques, seen in the Project Arts Centre at this year’s Dublin theatre festival.

H.P. Lovecraft died in March, 1937. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was unleashed upon the world in 1967. In 1997 Kula Shaker’s seminal Summer Sun EP ushered in a new era of woozy psychedelia. Corps Diplomatiques begins in the year 2027. Performed by an ensemble of French actors headed by the enigmatic Halory Goerger, Les Corps Diplomatiques offers us an invitation into the eyes of madness with no escape in sight. Appearing as the final performance of the Young Critics 2015 programme, Les Corps Diplomatique starts off with an intriguing concept; if we did meet aliens, how would we communicate? The answer is of course art. The idea is that art transcends language, class, race, species, you name it! Joined by a journalist tired of the mundanity of earth life, these intrepid explorers jet off into the unknown to find and communicate with the “other”. Aided by artsy technology, unburdened by time constraints, criticism, or even conflict of any form our cast soar boldly toward the centre of the universe with noble intent.

Sounds terribly exciting doesn’t it?! For them it really, truly is anything but. Trapped in a metal coffin eternally revolving through the void they careen toward nothingness. Without criticism, what do they improve? Freed from the constraints of society, whats even good or bad or worthy or anything at all? Cut off from time, can they ever actually finish what they start? As the yawning void of space engulfs them physically, this selfsame hollow realisation opens within each character. The wondrous technology falls into disuse. (one neat tech gag involves the audience –us!- being referred to as holograms) The characters’ own depressive qualities manifest as they sit smoking spaceweed and staring hollow eyed into empty space. A languid waking death lies over the characters, who undergo a series of changes; dying, only to be reborn through super science, suicides, cloning, you know the drill.

Here’s the strangest thing though; for such a witty, weird story, the play itself is as disconnected from the audience as possible. The actors speak in their native French, with overhead “surtitles” running as the actors speak. Postioned incredibly uncomfotrtably, the audience frequently has to make the choice of focussing on the acting onstage, or reading what it is that’s being said. Slightly ironic that a play about the transcendence of art over language is stumped by this very same predicament ay? The acting too is distant and hazy, almost emotionless, but I believe that’s intentional. The void of space matched by the void of personality? The lighting was phenomenal, drawing us in like a mad charity worker on Grafton Street on a sunny July evening.

But the play’s lysergic madness conquers any and all criticism. Between hilarity (clones behaving like stroppy teenagers) and morbidity (past generations of clones are recycled into food), the play covers the course of several thousand years. Presenting time as a cycle of psychedelic intent (a psychcle if ye will) the play goes from a nice little jaunt across space to a thought experiment on the decline and futility of not just art, but society and existence in general. If we’re just gonna contribute to an unending cycle that we, no matter what cannot break, what’s the point? If art is just expression whats the point of calling it good or bad if it can’t be either by definition, especially bereft of society as the play shows?

And that was perfectly summed up, as we left the theatre. Stepping out of that hazy, terrifying room and into the cold Dublin drizzle, I turned to my friend ready to let loose with my praise of the terrifying, different amd somehow frightening play we’d just witnessed. Before I could say anything, he just shook his said and muttered , “Well, that was a load of crap.” And maybe it was. But maybe it was great at the same time, and maybe it was neither. I actually don’t know. Either way, if I’m thinking about it now, it must have been something nonetheless. So, yeah it was a pretty cool and psychedelic experience overall anyways.

-Thomas Caffrey, Esq.