“We’ve taken COVID-19 as a challenge!” says Bloomsday’s Creative Director, Joycean scholar Frances Devlin-Glass. “We refuse to give up that easily. After all, Joyce wrote Ulysses during the last world pandemic, the Spanish Flu! Instead of our traditional theatre-based production, we’ve handpicked some of Melbourne’s top acting talent to give us their own take on passages from the book.”
As guide and narrator, Australian national treasure Max Gillies lends his comic and dramatic skills to proceedings. “My word, there’s a huge amount of young acting talent in Melbourne,” he says. “They’re keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure.”
Director Jennifer Sarah Dean, Artistic Director of Melbourne Shakespeare Company, has recruited eight rising young Melbourne stars. “Directing actors remotely is a challenge, no doubt,” says Dean. “But I’ve loved how they’ve embraced the challenge. We have 18 wonderful readings from Joyce’s book, and they’re funny, and sad, and erotic and moving… everything Ulysses itself is.”
Distilling Joyce’s famously complex novel into short ‘bites’ has tested the Bloomsday in Melbourne scripting team. “We’re talking about condensing more than a quarter of a million words turned into short, bite-sized pieces,” says Devlin-Glass.
“We believe we’ve been true to the novel, the different tones of each chapter and the beauty (and sometimes the grotesquerie) of the language… and I’m sure that Joyceans around the world will let us know if they agree. Using modern social media technology, in isolation, to create the films, has been conducive to comic games with the medium itself that we think Joyce would appreciate.”
Joyce’s famous novel is set in Dublin on 16 June 1904 – a date now celebrated throughout the world as Bloomsday, after the book’s gentle hero Leopold Bloom. Each film, corresponding with Joyce’s timetable for Ulysses, will be released at the appointed time, beginning with two at 8.00am and ending early the next morning.
“Because of Australia’s location, we get a head start every year on the rest of the world,” says Devlin-Glass. “So we’re hoping that Joyceans everywhere will be able to join us in appreciating once again Joyce’s masterpiece.”
Image: James Joyce (sourced)