DTR - Reviews of bloominauschwitz

bloominauschwitz

Fri 3rd – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Shauna Lewis

at 09:28 on 8th Aug 2018

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Flipping ‘Ulysses’ on its head and offering a contemporary perspective, ‘bloominauschwitz’ takes a look at identity, religion and a lack of foresight on James Joyce’s part. As Leopold Bloom sits on the toilet, his self from the future appears and tells him of the troubles and the future fame of his character. Less cheesy than it sounds, the production is enlightening to anyone watching, regardless of their knowledge of ‘Ulysses’, but does also rely heavily on references to the original text.

A one-man show, Patrick Morris’ performance was nuanced and versatile as he inhabited the Blooms of the past and present and he made a single performance feel like a full cast. Sometimes hard to understand in his torrent of speech, but always rigorously in character, he switched between 1904 Bloom and Bloom in Auschwitz, amongst others. The mannerisms and manner of speaking were so distinct between them all; it was easy to view them as separate characters and independent of each other, which can sometimes be hard in a one-man show.

From my limited knowledge of ‘Ulysses’, I was aware that Bloom was an Irishman who converted to Judaism within the novel. In ‘bloominauschwitz’, his Jewish side is the one writer Richard Fredman focuses on, seeing whether Joyce had the foresight to guess his religion would have the relevance that it did. This was easily conveyed to the audience and it did inspire thought about the nature of perception and how we view things now.

Similarly, it opened up to the contemporary issue of how we seem to forget about history, and not care about its implications now we live in the more liberal present. For me, the exploration of these issues were what the show did best, as they were universal themes which were relevant and accessible for all.

For me, my previously mentioned limited knowledge of ‘Ulysses’ did hinder my enjoyment of the show. Although the themes were valuable, I didn’t quite understand all of it and I think it would be difficult to expand to a more mainstream audience. The show was rambling and incoherent in places, much like the book, so this could have been intentional. Again though, this may isolate the larger audience the show was seeking. Despite this, the frequent references to the density of the book and the ‘extremists’ who had read it did reassure and add a distinct sense of humour and self-awareness.

Although it did limit its audience by the very nature of the plot, ‘bloominauschwitz’ does try to cater to the masses in its performance. Offering some vital perspective on Joyce and identity, it suits anyone looking for a bit of a philosophical discussion.

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Katherine Knight

at 10:20 on 8th Aug 2018

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Unlike most people who think themselves literature buffs, I have not read James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’. So it’s armed with a Wikipedia summary and my Mum’s brief synopsis that I enter the small theatre, and am almost immediately greeted with the opening lines of the book.

It’s a shame that I’m so poorly acquainted with the novel, as the first few scenes pass me by in a haze of what I assume are carefully crafted references. It’s a love letter to Joyce’s work, and with all such homages remains fairly impenetrable – I can’t imagine what a newcomer would have thought of Bloom’s early scene on the toilet, and I would certainly recommend a synopsis beforehand if unacquainted with the material.

However, the love and care which has gone into this performance is evident, even to the newcomer – Leopold Bloom’s brash and bold character hits you in the face, even when you’re being acquainted with him for the first time. Patrick Morris gallops around the stage with a frankly astonishing energy, and his emotional reactions are what make the performance. The script is tight but challenging to keep up with, a thick Irish interspersed with Hebrew, German, and a host of other accents and languages at lightning-fast speed which left me reeling.

The title, we soon find out, is a sort of twisted pun. No one in their right mind enters a show with ‘Auschwitz’ in the title and expects an easy story, but what surprises me is the space given to genuine celebration of Jewish culture, complete with audience interaction. It makes Bloom’s eventual revelation even more heart-breakingly tragic. There’s certainly an underlying sorrow as you watch his joy, but it’s refreshing to see the culture brought to the fore for once, not just as an addendum to a tragic event.

Just as the 800-page book which proves its inspiration, this show runs a little longer than most at the Fringe (standing at 90 minutes); however, it’s hard to imagine the heroic journey being any shorter. Although there’s a large jump in time which isn’t accounted for, the show still fulfills its promise to take you on a journey through the 20th century with an incredibly charismatic character at the helm. The inclusion of modern culture is a particularly welcome addition, applying the pertinent themes of identity and migration (as well as some very difficult questions) to the present day. Although newcomers will struggle to keep up with this relentless homage, it’s a wonderful work with a timely message at its core. Just make sure you check over the Wikipedia summary first.

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