Andy Arnold resurrects his production of James Joyce's Ulysses for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

This article is from 2013

Andy Arnold resurrects his production of James Joyce's Ulysses for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Photo: John Johnston

Arnold is working from Dermot Bolger's 1994 adaptation of the novel

Andy Arnold's decision to direct Dermot Bolger's 1994 version of Ulysses is clearly an act of love. Joyce's novel had never been put on any stage before, because his family never allowed it, but Arnold took the bull by its horns, even taking the adaptation to the iconic author's hometown of Dublin. Surprisingly, given the scope of Joyce's notoriously difficult tale, Bolger's script captures its essential tragedy: a relationship broken by a child's death and the nagging frustrations of domestic insecurity.

Bolger is sensitive to Joyce's subtle switches of style and mood, while the production's strength lies in the ensemble cast's ability. The stunning set presents Ulysses' Dublin as a landscape of the emotions, with the marital bed front and centre. The Fringe is not always the easiest place to present such ambitious theatre, but Arnold was convinced that he should take the plunge by audience reaction to the play in Glasgow last October. Performed in Edinburgh at Paterson's Land (a new venue which the Tron company share with the NTS and Scottish Opera), this production will consolidate Ulysses as a serious piece of theatre, albeit one not without a stamp of humour.

More than just a startlingly bold adaptation, it clearly fits into Arnold's vision for the Tron. Having championed artists like Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel and Flann O'Brien in his programming to date, Arnold believes that Joyce's novel has an existentialist, absurdist style which compares strongly with that trio's work. In condensing one of the 20th century's most important novels, Bolger and Arnold have discovered its emotional heart and theatrical potential.

Paterson's Land, 9–26 Aug.


‘I am a fool perhaps. Boylan gets the plums and I get the plum stones. My youth. Never again. Gibraltar. Evenings like this looking out over the sea, she told me, but clear, no clouds. Said she always thought she'd marry a lord or a gentleman with a private yacht. Why me?’ While his wife Molly waits in bed for the…