To my shame I have never read this great literary classic. I have started it many times but have always felt a bit intimidated by it. Now that I have seen this adaptation I am determined to give it another go. It is richly comic and entertaining, full of earthy and glorious language and characters and deep with meaning and literary references.
The story, such as it is, is well-known – the book mirrors Homer’s Odyssey which tells the story of Ulysses and his adventures before his return home to his wife Penelope. Here we follow a day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he goes about his business in Dublin and meets a variety of colourful characters on the way, at a funeral, in the pub, on the beach and in a brothel before returning to the marital bed and his voluptuous wife Molly. The book is very long and is famous for its, what was then, innovative stream of consciousness style which would be difficult to emulate on stage. This adaptation by Dermot Bolger dramatises key scenes from the book and uses voices off to fill in some of the background.
The actors all have impressive pedigrees and I can’t single any of them out, they were all excellent. One scene which will live long in my memory is the scene in the brothel where Bloom experiences a series of hallucinations. I could have sworn I was hallucinating too at the sight of Grant Smeaton wearing corsets and full wig and makeup astride Bloom, he was the spitting image of Benny Hill, complete with cod German accent. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Leopold and Molly. Why did she, so vivacious and sought after, choose him, a half Jewish booklover with no ambition. “Because you were so foreign to the others” is her reply. Bloom is being cuckolded by singer Blazes Boylan – ”Boylan gets the plums and I get the plumstones”.
And finally there is Molly’s glorious soliloquy where she lies in bed beside the sleeping Bloom and reflects on her day and her adultery with Boylan and reminisces about the past and the day she accepted Bloom’s proposal. How better to finish than with Molly’s own words “he asked me would I say yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.”
Whether this adaptation will satisfy Joyce aficionados I don’t know, but I for one found it hugely enjoyable.