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Campaigning for Ulysses, the Play: Montreal, 2019? | Festival Bloomsday Montréal

Hello, fans of Ulysses! Do you want to see a play version of Joyce’s Ulysses in Montreal?

The Abbey Theatre’s production of Ulysses, adapted by Dermot Bolger and directed by Graham McLaren, which ran from October 2 to 28, 2017, will go on tour. The question is: Will it come to Montreal? The answer: It may be up to us and our enthusiasm for the project. Translation: Are we willing to do the work to make it happen?

Lesley Regnier went with her sister to see the play when she was in Ireland this past fall. Here’s a description of what she saw: Bloom’s odyssey is a pandemonium of live music, puppets, dancing, clowning, bowler hats and kazoos. It’s Ulysses as you’ve never imagined it before, a superbly theatrical homage to Joyce’s chronicle of Dublin life and the greatest novel of all time. Created by Abbey Theatre Director Graham McLaren, the production is absurd, brilliant and oodles of fun. Lesley wrote about the play in the last issue of Joyicity. She was so wildly enthusiastic that she got us going.

The first step was taken. I wrote to Dermot Bolger, adaptor, and he responded: Thank you indeed for your interest in the Abbey production of Ulysses, which I am most gratified by. Naturally as the adaptor I would be delighted to see this production travel to Montreal or other Canadian cities at some future stage but, as you can imagine, decisions about what plays the Abbey decide to tour are internal decisions taken by the Abbey themselves and I am not privy to such discussions. I think the best thing that I can do is to send your query onto the Abbey itself and ask them to reply directly to you…. With every best wish from Dublin, Dermot.

Neil Murray, theatre producer from the Abbey Theatre, replied: Thank you for your message to Dermot Bolger, which he has kindly forwarded to me. We are reviving our production of Ulysses, adapted, brilliantly, by Dermot in the summer of 2018, in Dublin. We are very keen that it have a potential North American life, but that will depend on the range of interest and potential presenters. The show is of significant scale so the logistics around touring it are complex. We are in the process of inviting Canadian/US presenters and festivals to see the show in Dublin in 2018, with a view to the show touring in 2019. I will make sure that you are included on that list of invitees.

Marlene Chan is going to Dublin in early March. She will try to set up an appointment with Neil Murray to explore further “the potential North American life” of the Ulysses play. Marlene has already contacted John P. Kelly, award winning theatre producer from Ottawa, who suggests: It would be great to secure the rights for a Canadian production.

Bloomsday Montréal has talked to the Embassy in Ottawa about how wonderful we think it would be for all of us to see the Ulysses play. Our new Second Secretary Laura Finlay says that there may be a funding stream available from Culture Ireland to help bring the production to North America.

So, dear fans of James Joyce, is a play version of Ulysses something that you would go to see? Would your friends and family go too? In other words, is this a production that would sell in Montreal? Would the Centaur or the Segal be interested in it? Would people in the theatre world of Montreal be supportive? How much can we count on you to make it happen? Let us know. All comments, offers and ideas are welcome.

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