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A1 Play: Dubliners (Paralysed)

Updated: Mar 20

It took the proud, pompous, preternaturally smart 20-something James Joyce more than seven years to get his first book published. Joyce was so prepossessed, he told publishers they would 'retard civilization' if they didn't publish it. When it finally landed in 1914, 'Dubliners' caused quite the stir. Its hyper-detailed cultural assassination of a city and its people in utter paralysis gave a view of the modern world so unflinchingly sad and critical that people didn't really know what to say.

Despite being best remembered for the two novels that everyone talks about but very few people have read - 'Ulysses' and 'Finnegan's Wake' - 'Dubliners' remains Joyce's most accessible and resonant book.

Take those seven years of Joyce tinkering and turn them into weeks, then maybe minus a couple - that's how long it took Andy and his band of A1 troubadours to put together a turbo-charged crazy carousel re-imagining of the book as play. This is the second go round for ex-Hurtwooder Olive Bown, whose self-penned piece of Beckettian absurdity, 'The Director, the Doctor and the Dead, Dead Dog', was her first collaboration with Andy, and there are lots of linkages with tonight's gleeful, sorrowful mess.

From the start, the stage is set by a parodied Greek chorus, their voices phasing in and out of unison, while they dance The Twist. In mid-century America, Chubby Checker's anthem was a call-to-arms for teens in search of fun. Here it is re-imagined as a scary indictment of a world on repeat, doomed to play the same routines over and over, like we did last summer, and the one before, and the one before... There's jumping physical comedy a-plenty here, with the sheer movement of the actors on impressive display throughout, but the soundtrack is a broken jukebox, the needle is skipping and the words are getting jumbled.

There are moments of beauty, a beautiful truth without form, like the refrain of the Gaelic ballad that eventually splits into tearjerking harmonies, before devolving into absurd breakbeat. And moments of hilarious over-writing, like the arduous, lengthy definitions of difficult (and obvious) words given (whether we like it or not) by the (not) chorus.

The character of Eveline sat by the window smelling the dusty cretonne curtain is the most enduring, and brutally repeated image of the piece, as she looks out and hopes for something better. This is a bittersweet meditation that is as relevant in 2024 as it was in 1914.

From the programme:

Our A1 Show for this year was, once again, written by an ex-student, the scholarly, Olive Bown. She based it upon the novel, 'Dubliners', written by James Joyce. We then added a few ‘bits’.

It is about his view of Dublin in the early 1900’s, where the inhabitants went about their day-to-day lives and routines. His concern was to illustrate how we become entrapped within culture, habits, and where we are from - on a socio-political level and one of class, and religion. It is about not being able to leave, escape, or change things; how we behave, and how (also how much) we think. Although about the people of Dublin, the ideas and sentiments expressed seem to be applicable to very many communities. Joyce described ‘Dubliners' as him wanting to give people 'one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking glass'.DUBLINERS (PARALYSED)





Cast and Characters


Szymon Nagorski

VOICE: A narrator who echoes peoples’ thoughts throughout the play.


Akira Akhtar

MARIA: An elderly, long-faced woman of small stature


Freya Davies

AUNT KATE: Gabriel’s elderly Aunt


Elliner Mofidi

AUNT JULIA: Gabriel’s even more elderly Aunt


Jillian Chan

GRETTA: Gabriel’s wife: charismatic and positive.


Martina Cabral -Tero

GABRIEL: Gretta’s husband: has an air of superiority.


Sara Paulson

EVELINE: A young woman, frozen in paralysis of a great decision


Willem Paskins

FRANK: Eveline’s husband-to-be. A sailor.


Freya Davies

ELIZA: A mourner.


Ella Keller

MISS IVORS: A young Irish nationalist: one of the few people to challenge Gabriel


Cici Armani

MR HYNES: A government official


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