The Dubliners Dilemma

Bachelors Walk Productions present 'The Dubliners Dilemma'. Photos: Bern Deegan

Bachelors Walk Productions present 'The Dubliners Dilemma'. Photos: Bern Deegan

Bachelors Walk Productions present 'The Dubliners Dilemma'. Photo: Bern Deegan

Bachelors Walk Productions present 'The Dubliners Dilemma'. Photo: Bern Deegan

The Dubliners Dilemma, a one-man show devised and performed by Declan Gorman, delivers well in CityArts’ twenty-five seat theatre and would likely play to advantage in somewhat larger houses. It is Bachelors Walk Productions' aim to take the show “worldwide”, and to this effect they have devised “a unique crowd-funding initiative” of having patrons along the way sign an antique Signature Book dating from the period in which the work is set. It is hoped that donations from this source will fund their travels - an optimistic goal. This bit of codology should not detract from the genuine merit of the show.

Adaptations of Joyce’s works and stage biographies of the writer abound, making it difficult for a writer to distinguish his effort and to create an appeal that will extend beyond tourist audiences or Joyce aficionados. Gorman, former director of City Arts, and a compelling performer, frames his Joycean montage on the fraught publishing battle that preceded the appearance of Dubliners in 1914. Most of the drama, however, consists of nearly verbatim enactments of Joyce’s texts of 'An Encounter', 'Counterparts', 'A Mother' and 'Two Gallants'. Gorman interprets roles from that of the insufferable snob, Mrs Kearney, the eponymous mum of the latter story, to the little boys in the others. Set in the offices of Grant Richards, Joyce’s cautious but eventual publisher, Gorman as Richards, begins his correspondence with the author in Eoghan Darcy and Edward Stevenson’s clever, utilitarian set comprised of stacks of folded cardboard boxes the size of reams of paper which function as office furniture.

Photo: Bern DeeganGorman is perhaps at his best when undertaking childhood roles - the boy gleefully mitching from school in 'An Encounter' and the imperilled son of Farrington at the end of the sobering (in both senses of the word) 'Counterparts'. In Dubliners, published in 1914, Joyce directly addressed social issues much in the public consciousness at present, but not publically acknowledged in his day – the threat of child molestation and domestic violence, and The Dubliners Dilemma handles these as written, but with a contemporary awareness.

Gorman is also in his element with Joyce’s obsequious characters – the unfortunate Hoppy Holohan, placating Mrs Kearney’s ire, and the conniving Lenihan, Corley’s partner in crime in 'Two Gallants'. Under the direction of Gerard Lee, the actor’s range is equal to the multi-tasking, although it is possible that viewers less than familiar with the text might find the splicing of stories and the epistolary history between Joyce and his publisher somewhat confusing.

Joyce’s struggle to get his work in print is sympathetically conveyed from both the author and the publisher’s point of view, as is Joyce’s stubborn determination to resist rewrites that would satisfy the censors and avoid prosecution – a very real threat. One small part of the puzzle missing from Gorman’s linking script is that the printer, not just the publisher, could be prosecuted for undertaking to print obscenity. In The Dubliners Dilemma the printer’s baulking seems to suggest a moral imperative, which is misleading. This quibble, however, does not detract from the sustained level of good editorial choices made to the relevant texts nor from an animated and intelligent performance.

Christina Hunt Mahony, whose books include Out of History: Essays on the Writings of Sebastian Barry (Carysfort), teaches in the School of English, Trinity College.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Dubliners Dilemma by Declan Gorman, adapted from 'Dubliners' by James Joyce

9 - 28 July, 2012

Produced by Bachelors Walk Productions
In CityArts

Adapted and Performed by Declan Gorman

Directed by Gerard Lee

Set: Eoghan Darcy and Edward Stevenson

Lighting: John McGovern and Saleh Raffei

Sound: Michael Gerrard