About the production
Details of Radio 4's production of James Joyce's Ulysses, dramatised by Robin Brooks. The production is broadcast in seven parts across 'Bloomsday', 16th June 2012 on BBC Radio 4.
A special dramatisation to mark 'Bloomsday'
In a landmark project a new dramatisation of Ulysses is broadcast across one day - morning, afternoon and evening. With live commentary from Mark Lawson, broadcasting from Dublin it celebrates the greatest Modernist novel of the twentieth century on the day on which it is set - 16th June.
The dramatisation, by Robin Brooks, follows the novel’s two iconic characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus as they wander across Dublin in the course of one ordinary day, the 16th June 1904.
The cast is led by Henry Goodman as Leopold Bloom. With Andrew Scott as Stephen Dedalus, Niamh Cusack as Molly Bloom and Stephen Rea as the Narrator. The supporting cast includes Jim Norton, Lorcan Cranitch, Des McAleer, Frances Barber, Pip Donaghy and Denise Gough. Twenty-five actors have taken part, and the music includes new recordings of songs by Irish soprano Daire Halpin.
The drama is directed by Jeremy Mortimer and Jonquil Panting and produced by Jeremy Mortimer and Claire Grove.
The scheduling of the drama across the day corresponds roughly with the order of events in the book, which opens with Stephen Dedalus and ‘plump stately’ Buck Mulligan standing on top of the Martello Tower overlooking Dublin Bay. This scene will be the first of three five-minute pieces broadcast as part of Radio 4’s Saturday Live. This will be followed by further parts broadcast at 10.30am, 12.00pm, 2.30pm, 5.30pm, 8.00pm and 11.00pm. The total duration of the dramatisation is five and a half hours. All 7 parts will be made available as free downloads for two weeks from time of broadcast.
Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book, although he found it not quite obscene enough to disallow its importation into the United States. And Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce's "cloacal obsession". None of these descriptions, however, do justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to new heights. It is the benchmark by which novelists have measured themselves ever since. It is funny, sorrowful, and even in its own way suspenseful. It is also beautiful, warm, witty and wise.
But it is worth noting that the most outspoken parts of the novel, in terms of language and sexual description, take place in the later stages of the book, and will consequently be broadcast in the evening.
Ulysses is a book many of the R4 audience always meant to read and haven’t and it has been the subject of fierce critical debate since publication. Virginia Woolf records in her journal starting it, not liking it - reading on - deciding that there was something rather unusual there, but she didn’t know what it was and still didn’t like it. Roddy Doyle said on the Book Programme that he made a throwaway remark at an event about the fact that Ulysses could do with some editing, and the subsequent outrage has haunted him ever since.
So what happens in Ulysses ? Two characters, Stephen Dedalus (an agnostic ex-Catholic) and Leopold Bloom (a Jew), both outsiders in the traditional Irish sense, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of other memorable characters. We watch them teach, eat, loiter, argue and in Bloom's case masturbate and follow their thoughts, emotions and memories through Joyce’s pioneering stream of consciousness technique. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into a single day.
Ulysses ranges over a plethora of ‘modern’ topics: relationships, sex, the press, publicity and advertising, popular culture and music, adultery, nationalist posturing and political cynicism, alienation, racial and ethnic prejudice, technology and consumerism - to name just a few. Many of the 'real' things and topical events (historical references, newspaper reports, descriptions of environments, places and objects) were meticulously researched by Joyce. He wanted to "give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book". Dublin on 16th June 1904 was far more sophisticated and 'multicultural' than it was to be at any time again up to the mid 1990s. It also had an infant mortality rate only exceeded in the British Empire by Calcutta.
Narrator …Stephen Rea
Leopold Bloom …Henry Goodman
Stephen Dedalus…Andrew Scott
Molly Bloom …Niamh Cusack
Bella Cohen … Frances Barber
Buck Mulligan …Kevin Trainor
Simon Dedalus… Des McAlleer
Haines… Harry Livingstone
Benjamin Dollard… Gerard McDermott
Mr Deasy …Jim Norton
Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan… Sean Campion
Crawford… Jonathan Forbes
Joe Hynes… John Rogan
John Eglinton … Peter Hamilton Dyer
Martin Cunningham… Stephen Hogan
Gerty MacDowell… Denise Gough
The Citizen…Pip Donaghy
Mary Dedalus… Janet Moran
Edy Boardman … Grainne Keenan
Cissy Caffrey … Bronagh Taggart
Martha Clifford… Christine Absalom
Alf Bergan … Ronan Raftery
Zoe … Susie Riddell
Other parts played by members of the cast
Singer Daire Halpin
Pianist Colin Guthrie
Directed by Jeremy Mortimer and Jonquil Panting
Produced by Jeremy Mortimer and Claire Grove