A Dublin stallholder flies out of Rathmines Market on James Joyce’s Bloomsday, recreating a Joycean escapade parallel to the “real” fiction of Ulysses, and reclaiming the identities of the characters in the book.
Donal O'Kelly’s solo play, vigorously performed by his daughter Katie O'Kelly, is a regular little 45-minute tour de force that has been forced to tour in many other venues before settling in one of the unlovely George Square lecture theatres.
The setting is not inappropriate for the lit-crit aspect of a show that re-introduces us to Joyce's immediate circle on that fateful day in 1904: his father, John Stanislaus Joyce; his scholarly friend, Oliver St John Gogarty, who whisks him off to the Martello Tower at Sandycove for a quick dip in the Forty Foot; the tenor Count John McCormack singing (but is it him?) “Just a Song at Twilight”; Alfred Hunter, the model for Leopold Bloom; and Nora Barnacle, the hotel chambermaid who became Joyce’s wife.
O'Kelly’s text is a Joycean fruitcake of descriptive allusion and word play, operating as both a homage and a commentary and illustrating Joyce’s novel achievement in getting drunk on words; as Kenneth Tynan said much later of Brendan Behan, his language is out on a spree.
So Sorcha Fox’s production is great fun, in its modest way, and Katie O’Kelly swirls the coloured cloak of her narrative in a stream of semi-consciousness, flying over the city on great black wings, a ravenous crow of a companion in a world where, for this one special day, everyone we meet has been well and truly Joyced. Even Joyce himself.