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