That was gas!
The super-fun Wandering Rocks, a Ulysses-influenced piece directed by Sam Ford and Michael Stone as part of Trinity’s Re:Joyce Festival.
Ugh Ulysses! Why, isn’t that all fusty long-winded pretentious intellectual academic jiggerypokery?
Funny you should ask, Stereotypical Hater. Because not only is Ulysses actually REALLY GOOD, but Wandering Rocks does a great job of capturing this.
Golly! How so?
It’s a modern take on the myriad impressions of the urban flaneur à la Leopold Bloom, with personal digressions and vivid memories aplenty. It’s full of absurd humour, clever wordplay and honest experience. It recreates the Joycean feeling with a lot of accuracy: the silly bits, the whimsy, the looming presence of history. The manically precise cartographical detail, together with the depictions of warts-and-all urban ugliness. It’s all there.
Well all righty then. Any particular highlights, in the event I’m not convinced?
A skit in which all six characters pretend to be various bridges in Dublin (complete with all-fours posing action), quipping lines such as ‘I’m the Samuel Beckett, and to be honest I’d much rather be in France.’
Observations such as the realisation that one has ‘drank more Bulmers than water’ that day.
A sequence involving the logistics of how to dispose of a human poo that’s been left mysteriously outside your apartment.
Another skit in which the entire cast pretend to be an assortment of historical Dublin buildings, with the Spire (Maggie Crane in a conical silver hat) as an overexcited newcomer whose inane announcements (‘Guys, did you know that apparently I’m rusting uncontrollably from the inside?’) are met with all-round exasperation.
Who’s in it, anyways?
The six narratives are told by Brian McMahon Gallagher, Maggie Crane, Ronan Carey, Honi Cooke, Sorcha FitzGerald, and Matthew O’Dwyer. The play has been composed in an unconventional way, in that all six flaneurs were let loose in Dublin to record their impressions, collaborating over a ten-week period on what eventually came together into a script. I thought this was a really novel way to do things, because the narratives retained a lot of individuality (I liked Brian McMahon Gallagher’s interludes in semi-rhyme) while still seeming harmonious and cohesive.
Well, fine, but is this just turning something weighty like Joyce into a rollicking rip-roaring funfest?
Well, Hater, come here ‘til I tell you. The jokes are interspersed with nuanced and uncomfortable depictions of the class divide (an observation in which the narrator only notices a needle on the ground because they have dropped their iPhone beside it is particularly striking), Ireland’s lingering religious strictures are present in allusions to the marriage equality referendum, and the memories evoked by the city have a poignant touch: streets are tainted by memories of exes and disastrous nights out, and a sense of urban loneliness is never far from the surface.
Well was there anything wrong with it, then?
Well – certain (admittedly very funny) jokes and statements are reproduced throughout the script – a pun along the lines of ‘they should have a bridge with my name on it, I certainly let enough people walk all over me’ comes up twice, and the part about the Spire’s internal rusting is likewise mentioned a second time. However, this might have been a good thing – the fact that the same allusions recurred, in a cyclical way, is probably something Joyce would have liked himself.
I suppose you’ll give it a rating, then?
Indeed. This one gets a pedantic 4.5 out of 5.