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Dublin Theatre Festival: Review - Dubliners

THE slogan for this year's Dublin Theatre Festival is 'Your City, Your Stories,' so what better for the opening show than Joyce's collection of short stories about our capital and its inhabitants.

Corn Exchange's production, based on a new adaptation by Michael West, is hugely ambitious, and a pleasure to watch. It shines an uncomfortable light on parts of our nature we'd rather brush under the carpet.

It's also more than three hours long. It would be epic, if only it didn't feel so ordinary.

Nine of Joyce's 15 stories run in sequence, with barely a pause, in director Annie Ryan's trademark style: hyper-stylised acting, exaggerated motions and expressions with commedia makeup.

Ryan's timing brings out the texture of Joyce's language, and she indulges his relentless attention to detail: who else can get away with describing people by talking about the shape of their nostrils?

The 10 actors, including impressive newcomers, jump effortlessly between multiple characters. All narrate their actions in the third person and rarely engage in direct dialogue. This is a natural fit for Corn Exchange, but grows wearing.

It's puzzling why, since they omitted more than a third of the stories, West and Ryan didn't leave out more and focus on the most compelling ones. On opening night the most famous and tragic -- 'The Dead' -- didn't start until 10:30 p.m.

Too much of a good thing is a high-class problem though, and the show powerfully explores the theme of paralysis. Joyce's characters are unable to change -- they're trapped by their own nature.

Their destiny is not something that can be seized. Dublin has chosen their fates for them long before the action begins.

Irish Independent