Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh
August, 1990

James Joyce must crop up as a fictional character more often than any other author except Shakespeare. Ulick O'Connor's play is not strictly fiction, but an assemblage of biographical data with extracts from a surprising range of Joyce's works. Inevitably there are over-simplifications, most glaringly the virtual absence of Joyce's beloved Nora. And though Vincent O'Neill portrays Gertie MacDowell, a Liffey washerwoman and even the river-spirit Anna Livia herself, the neglect of their original model is unjustified. Of the characters included, however, O'Neill's delineations are dextrous and economical: his movements are lithe and the acid test when he recites from Finnegans Wake one can usually hear both the meaning and the puns amid all the polyglot extravagances. There are no ill-advised attempts to illuminate Joyce's genius or even to provide a comprehensive potted history; it's an hour-long theatrical Greatest Hits package, sensitively compiled and gracefully executed.

Written for The Independent.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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