The Dubliners Dilemma

June 17, 2017

****

An Encounter with a Genuine Gallant

 

In 1914 the world stood on the brink of extinction. Yet the cause was not the outbreak of the war to end all wars. No, it was the possibility of James Joyce’s classic collection of short stories Dubliners finally going to print after nine years searching for a publisher. A book so terrifying eighteen publishers ran from it. Printers refused to print it for fear of what it might unleash upon the world. But one man dared to look squarely at the dilemma Dubliners presented to him. In Declan Gorman’s charming one man show “The Dubliners Dilemma” publisher Grant Richards is offered a chance at redemption having originally rejected the offending manuscript years before. Facing into a soul-searching struggle Richards must decide between publish and be damned and publish or be damned in this delightful treat that’s just perfect for a Bloomsday weekend.

 

Alternating between an array of real and fictional characters, including the maestro Joyce himself, Gorman’s reimagining of the moral and personal struggle Richards faced is wonderfully conveyed. If stakes are minimal, as we already know the outcome, the potential cost to Richards compensates somewhat and is something well worth being reminded of. Indeed, in a climate where certain college students are clamouring to have books banned for fear of their causing offence, the choices facing those who chose to resist moral outrage and censorship is beautifully positioned in this feather light work with a backbone of steel. Alternating between correspondences between Richards and Joyce, along with beautifully balanced excerpts from the offending stories An Encounter, Two Gallants and Counterparts “The Dubliners Dilemma” sees Gorman convincingly switching between a range of roles with ease. If some roles and stories are a little more successful than others, Counterparts, for example, working far better than the comic relief, A Mother, which didn’t fit as well, Gorman’s tale is always engaging, confidently directed by Gerard Lee.

 

“The Dubliners Dilemma” manages to balance the best of both worlds when it comes to Joyce. If Joyce and his provocative tales have become somewhat sanitised and safe over the years, all boaters and bonnets and old-world charm, he was originally a writer whose work was so groundbreaking it had to be banned. “The Dubliners Dilemma” reminds us of this while allowing us to enjoy the dress up playfulness that comes with Bloomsday. Funny, charming, with a delightful performance by Gorman, “The Dubliners Dilemma” is likely to keep Joyce fans happy any time of year.

 

“The Dubliners Dilemma” written and performed by Declan Gorman, presented by Co-Motion Media and Batchelors Walk Productions in association with Bloomsday 2017, runs at Smock Alley Theatre until June 17th.

 

For more information, visit Smock Alley Theatre

 

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© 2016 Chris O'Rourke