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  • Chris O'Rourke

Yes and Yes

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company. Image Steve O'Connor


Following debut performances in Philadelphia and Washington, Liz Roche Company's much anticipated Yes and Yes finally makes its Irish debut. A production celebrating James Joyce's Ulysses. Dense with allusion, rich in word play, Joyce's bittersweet homage to art and Dublin is renowned for being a book more people claim to have read than have actually read it. To celebrate one hundred years since its publication, Yes and Yes offers Roche's response to what's been called the greatest novel of the twentieth century. The key word being response. Not homage, nor adaptation, though those familiar with the novel will recognise much. Instead, Yes and Yes speaks to Ulysses from the twenty-first century. Being as provocative and subversive, at times, as Ulysses was one hundred years ago.

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company. Image Steve O'Connor

Purists might hate it. To begin with, it dims the glow from the lamplight of nostalgia. If Joyce was unafraid to reposition the old in terms of the new, dragging the past into his day, Yes and Yes is eager to do the same, even if that past is Ulysses. Even if today doesn't always compare as well. Ever respectful, Roche is rarely restrained by respect. Or rather respects the Joycean process as much as the finished product. The endless experimentation to find new forms, using the past to speak to the present. Like Joyce did with words, Roche plays with the infinite choreographic possibilities of movement. Crafting a wonderful, dreamlike experience underscored by Ray Harman's music.

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company. Image Steve O'Connor

Given her passion for marrying text with dance in a multi-disciplinary practice, Roche is the ideal choice to undertake such a response. Taking an episodic approach, Roche's signature channeling of energies via pulse and flow is immediately in evidence. Dancers Sarah Cerneaux, Mufutau Yusuf, Diarmuid Armstrong and Grace Cuny exceptional throughout. A powerful solo by Cerneaux becomes a duet, finally expanding into a quartet, allowing patterns to emerge, mirror and repeat. Throughout, text signals shifts in episodes via a screen to the rear of the stage. Facilitating a few false endings until you realise there's chronology in play. Choices of chapter titles and sentences not always the most engaging, even as a cluster bomb of quotes at one point serves up a more immediately recognisable Joyce.

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company. Image Steve O'Connor

With a whirl of energy, movements are channelled through an almost call and response interplay; one landing and leading to the next as if it were the only natural option. Roche not so much crafting choreographic ley lines as uncovering their pathways. Even when flow stutters, or stop/starts, or the body is manipulated like an artist's mannequin, the flow of energy is ever present, deceptively effortless and deeply evocative. If the body references the text but not its Joycean allusions, it supplies a rich subtext of its own. A pumping heart motif links body and book with visceral immediacy, especially with regards to its religious and sexual themes. José Miguel Jiménez's lacklustre video shifts the gender emphasis of the Sandymount Stand encounter. Molly Bloom's orgasmic monologue becomes a pornographic performance, watched with cold, lifeless eyes as she watches us watching her. Yet not everything is visually as successful. Katie Davenport's Laura Ashley styled gimp suits might cleverly accentuate the shape of the body, but the stop/start, strike a pose choreography sees the orgy segment relying heavily on sexually predictable tropes.

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche Company. Image Steve O'Connor

Depending on your perspective is a term apt to describe any response to Yes and Yes. If Yes and Yes straddles an uneasy divide, sometimes caught up in its inspiration, other times transcending it, it subverts any easy identification in order to re-present Ulysses to a modern audience. It might be a love letter, but it has some things to say. Joyce may have wanted to always remember Dublin, you'll likely want to forget it. It's cold cranes, graffitied walls, industrial streetlights looking like nowhere, anywhere, everywhere. Dublin no longer the city immortalised in Joycean memory, but rather a speed bump of the soul. A fractured building site where even rehearsals are a performance. Haunted by ghosts of Dublin past and one brilliant novel. Depending on your perspective. Yes and Yes an artistic delight, offering a multitude of perspectives for you to enjoy and discuss time and again. Remind you of anything?

Yes and Yes by Liz Roche, a co-production between Solas Nua, Washington DC and Liz Roche Company in partnership with Cork Opera House, and commissioned by Solas Nua, runs at Project Arts Centre until November 12.

For more information visit Project Arts Centre or Liz Roche Company


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