Holy Cow

Holy Cow
Joyce Slaughters the Sacred Cows of English Literature. Directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean. fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. 13-17 June 2018.

The Bloomsday in Melbourne script team have cleverly adapted the episode in which the protagonist Leopold Bloom (Hunter Perske) visits the maternity hospital in James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. This is an exceptionally complex text and focusing on this lively episode is a good way to tackle the enormous literary tradition housed in this text.

The production forms part of the annual Bloomsday Festival which explores the novel through a variety of curated events. The performance has two jovial narrators; a clergyman (Paul Robertson) and a nun (May Jasper) who usher in characters, events, and locations. The parade of a variety of personalities from the novel populate the stage in a fiery and often raucous manner.

The episode is noted for its singular play on words and the way in which it revisits the entire history of the English language. The literary references are introduced with flamboyant announcements, signs and amusing props and this helps to punctuate the piece. The loquacious writing is well preserved, and the cast convey the wit and the liveliness of the language through energetic and steadfast performances. Their ability to meet the demands of the staging showcases their skill and talent. However, the tendency to descend into chaos is indulged too often. The unrelenting pace of high-octane action tends to overshadow the richness of the language and the register or tone of this adaptation.

Patricia Di Risio

Photographer: Bernard Peasley.

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