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London Irish Centre


16 June 2010







A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Bloomsday, 16th June 1904, the day when Leopold Bloom sets out to walk the streets of Dublin in Joyce's Ulysses, is now a day of national celebration in Ireland when tourists in Edwardian costume come for a whole week of tours and readings running up to Bloomsday itself. It's high time the definitive modernist novel of the 20th century was celebrated in style in London too, so I was very keen to attend the London Irish Centre's celebration of all things Joycean which included much eating and drinking while we were entertained with readings and songs from Joyce's oeuvre.

The evening's entertainment was compered by Owen Nolan who made a convincing Joyce in eye-patch, fedora and bow tie. Some forty individual readings and songs were interspersed with his amusing and informative biographical banter, delivered from a lectern as Joyce himself might have done, dealing out judicious comments on his critics and holding court on proceedings. Tables were arranged in a large circle around him and performers from the centre's resident London Irish Theatre group rose from each table to read or sing. Meanwhile, we were served fresh oysters which tasted of the sea and invoked the the "Lestrygonians" episode of Ulysses, where Leopold Bloom connects oysters and their putative aphrodisiacal effect with his wife's lover, Blazes Boylan. Platters kept arriving with black and white pudding (a favourite Irish breakfast food) sausages and other tasty snacks washed down with a free drink. Irish hospitality is alive and well in North London.

If the readings were sometimes a little stilted and the songs less tuneful than Joyce (a fine tenor himself) might have liked, the spirit of participation, so central to Joyce's great celebration of ordinary life in Ulysses, was also central to this Bloomsday event. Patricia Leventon's reading from the 'Nausicaa' chapter brought the Gertie McDowell episode to life most wonderfully - her professional acting skills gave voice to the several characters involved while drawing out the delicious irony of Gertie's purple prose and Bloom's reprehensible behaviour. It was the best performance of the evening and I was sorry she did not get to perform again as billed after the interval. Extracts were not confined to Ulysses, other works by Joyce and his contemporaries were also represented in this varied evening's entertainment.

I'm already looking forward to attending the London Irish Centre's next Bloomsday. As Joyce wrote, 'Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves'. This event did justice to the wonderful democracy and celebration of humanity which makes Ulysses perhaps the greatest novel ever written and therefore a work worthy of this annual celebration.



London Irish Centre

 50-52 Camden Square, London NW1 9XB
Tickets £15 including food and a free drink





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