This adaptation by The New Theatre of James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, is unavoidably wordy and esoteric but it captures the essence of the young enquiring Joyce portrayed by his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus.
Played by Lauren Farrell, there is nothing jarring about a female in the role. Dressed in a sailor suit, she has an air of innocence about her in the earlier part of the play. However, Farrell’s voice projection could be stronger.
While the play deals with the serious issues of the stranglehold of religion on Irish society, mixed up with politics, it is not without humour.
While Stephen is being advised by a teacher to consider becoming a priest, he is fondled by three pairs of roving hands while a prostitute in drag goads him.
The obsession with sex is never far from the surface. At the Christmas dinner table, Mrs Reardon, the governess, well played by Katie O’Kelly, castigates Parnell for his affair with Kitty O’Shea.
While Stephen’s father believes that religion should be kept out of politics, Mrs Reardon is all for the clergy moralising on politicians’ private lives.
The introverted Stephen absorbs the topics du jour. This burgeoning artist is clearly an outsider who realises he will have to go into exile to forge the conscience of his race.
The hell, fire and brimstone scene goes on for too long. But then, it’s all about the eternal nature of damnation, which is powerfully described by a ranting priest, played by Charles Hughes.
His view of human nature is lowly and he exults in the prospect of never-ending punishment for transgressors. Set against a black backdrop, Hughes’s performance is awesome. He never wavers from the fanaticism he conveys.
Stephen’s artistic leaning is admired by the character of Cranly who narrates much of the play. But he fears it could destroy him.
Directed by Jimmy Fay, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a fine adaptation of a great novel.
Star Rating: 4/5
Live music: James Blunt
Vicar Street, Dublin
Review by Ed Power
The internet can destroy reputations but it can make them too. A case in point is James Blunt, whose wry, witty Twitter feed has disarmed those inclined to write him off as a guitar-abusing, soft-pop Beelzebub.
At a sold out Vicar Street, he displays the same light-footed humour, dropping self-deprecating asides and dedicating his biggest hit, ‘You’re Beautiful’, to one of the ink-stained scribes along to review the show.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Blunt’s music. Now on his third album, the former British army officer remains irrepressibly slushy, with songs that work hard at connecting the dots between Westlife and one of those ardent strummers that occasionally wins X Factor. His repertoire is relentlessly mid-tempo and of a distinctly Mills and Boon flavour. He’s either falling in love (‘You’re Beautiful’), wrestling with heartache (‘Goodbye My Lover’) or pleading to be taken seriously as a romantic interest (‘Stay The Night’).
That is not to say the performance is indigestible. Rather it is frothy and feel-good, with a glossiness that can be testing if you’re not in the mood. Still, as a composer he’s absolutely solid — you can protest the chintzy sentiments of ‘1973’ or recent single ‘Bonfire Heart’ but it’s hard to criticise them simply for what they are: shiny power ballads in the vein of Bryan Adams or Ronan Keating.
The last time Blunt played Ireland, the venue was a packed RDS. His audience has perhaps become more selective but he doesn’t seem too troubled.
In interviews Blunt has always stressed he never craved global fame and was surprised when it came knocking. Nearly a decade on from ‘You’re Beautiful’ he is a mid-scale troubadour who can make a decent living from travelling the world, singing his songs. He has, you suspect, never been happier.