Archive for October, 2011

Yes, there is a place for us Joycean pilgrims.

In ‘Ulysses’, Leopold Bloom visits SWENY’S MEDICAL HALL in Lincoln Place, off Westland Row, Dublin, to buy some lemon soap for Molly. This chemist’s shop was still there when I lived in Dublin in the 1990s.

It has now reopened as a living James Joyce museum and bookshop, staffed entirely by volunteers, where you can make contact with other Joycean fans for evenings of readings and lectures, and you can buy lemon soap [and possibly other emblematic Joyceana].

I haven’t been there myself, but was told about this by a friend. The shop is a stone’s throw from Trinity College and there is a mighty buzz to be had from stepping inside its perfectly preserved interior. I am sure that any questions any of us might have would find an answer there.

Here’s a link:



My deepest respect to the commentator who has recently finished reading ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ from beginning to end.

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Last night in Cork City I was part of the audience for Carmel Winters’ play ‘B for Baby’. It is a savagely funny, angry, edgy work of tremendous power about ‘B’, a ‘special needs’ resident in an institution where, in theory, he is being minded, safe from the predators and dangers of the world outside. The play’s dark comedy is reminiscent of a writer I greatly admire, Joe Orton – a playwright who brought the unthinkable to vivid life onstage, whose depiction of ‘normal’ people showed them to be a gallery of grotesques; it was the lunatics, deviants and social misfits of his stories who became our heroes [or anti-heroes].

The Cork born actor Louis Lovett gives us an achingly real portrayal of ‘B’ – a kind man, a simple man, whom society has decided is not fit to live on his own in the world, a man who likes order, who believes a family is a Mam and a Dad and two children and a dog – whose lonely innocence is easily exploited. This is theatre that goes for the jugular, into areas we would rather not think about. If we don’t have personal knowledge of the world of adults with special needs, we would far rather close our eyes to the possibility that they may dream and even long for relationships, physicality, marriage. This play is about other things too, and none of them is comfortable viewing – but that is exactly where I believe theatre should go.

There is much wit in this piece, genuine funny moments, but much also that gets under the skin of its audience and keeps pricking away at those sensibilities we pretend we don’t have. If you can, go and see it. If you can’t, buy a copy of the play and read it, because this is a piece of theatre that will become a classic. Its message will only become irrelevant when we live in a world where no one vulnerable – no child, no one old, disabled, inarticulate, marginalised or desolate, is ever taken advantage of.

Bravo, Theatre Lovett.

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