The Citizens’ Breakfast

A sculpture of Irish author James Joyce is seen beside his grave at Fluntern cemetery in Zurich, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt)

A sculpture of Irish author James Joyce is seen beside his grave at Fluntern cemetery in Zurich, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt)

Bloomsday is just around the corner yet again and a special new event will have its inauguration this year in Dublin 4. ‘The Citizen’s Breakfast’ is a community play that will be performed on Shelbourne Road on June 16th, and will feature professional actors and willing members of the Ringsend-Irishtown-Sandymount area.

The play itself is a synthesis of an outdoor and indoor performance which will take place on both the main road and then the group will head indoors to the Chop House, where old style food of the Joycean area will be made available.

The performance is being funded by Dublin City Council and the Aviva Stadium Community Fund and is being produced in association with LADRA Residents’ Association.

The two chief facilitators of ‘The Citizen’s Breakfast’ are Gráinne Nugent and Tara Derrington, under the auspices of a group called Time Machine Events, who made a Bloomsday workshop available for volunteers throughout the month of May.

Gráinne is originally a native of Limerick, living in Dublin for the last 17 years. Her background is in English and Spanish, with a broad career that includes experience as a technical writer, editor, English language teacher and part-time amateur artist.

Tara, originally from Bristol in the UK, has lived in Dublin for the past 20 years taking in Ringsend and Sandymount and is a theatre director, a teacher at the Gaiety School of Acting and has set up a company called Living Space.

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The play itself is a celebration of Bloomsday that centres primarily around the romance between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. The performance is more autobiographical than most Bloomsday affairs, and it draws upon the relationship between Leopold and Molly Bloom and applies it to the courtship of Joyce and Barnacle.

All of the characters in the play are played by two actors: Fiona Browne, who is a voice artist and Damien Devaney, known to many familiar with Axis, Ballymun. Chris Nugent is the show’s stage manager.

“I came up with the idea about two years ago because I live in the area, on Shelbourne Road,” Gráinne told NewsFour. “On the exact date when ‘Ulysses’ is set, Joyce himself was lodging at 60 Shelbourne Road. It was through my involvement with LADRA that I got the idea for the play. I was always fixated with Joyce, and when we moved to the area, it never really left my mind. Bloomsday is nothing new, but we’re hoping to bring it back to the street where it was born.”

Many of our readers will understand what Gráinne is referring to here, as it was Ringsend where James and Nora had their first date on that imperishable day in 1904.

Tara and Gráinne are also the facilitators of the outreach workshops that took place in May, which include drama-writing based work, artwork, creative writing and digging into the novel itself. They have been engaging different groups throughout the area, including ‘The Gals Group’, Catholic Young Men and Women’s Society and volunteer actors’ groups. The fundamental idea is to take some of the materials created by the volunteers and use it as a backdrop for the indoor performance of the play.

“They (Nora and James) had their first date in Ringsend,” Tara told NewsFour. “We were interested in finding out from the elderly people who may have had grandparents alive during that time period what people did on first dates back in those days. It has been very enlightening to talk to people about their experiences.”

NewsFour asked both Tara and Gráinne about what their hopes and expectations for the workshops and play are, how they identify with ‘Ulysses’ and what they hope the participants will take away from the experience. There are hopes that this community play will become an annual event, and Tara and Gráinne will examine the interest shown in this year’s display, although much will depend on future sponsorship.

“You will see some of the book come to life before your eyes,” Tara says. “I don’t think you have to have read the book to enjoy the play. For me, people who don’t know too much about Bloomsday will be able to celebrate it in some way and hopefully generate a little bit of interest in reading, of any kind. I would say to my two daughters that if you enjoy reading, you can travel anywhere in time and space. We’re hoping to help to bring older traditions to a younger generation.”

“As a blow-in to Dublin,” Gráinne continues, “I can completely identify with Dublin’s most ‘Dublin’ book. I lived in Madrid for all of my 20s. I have lived outside Ireland so I can identify with seeing Ireland while living away and really wanting to come back.”

For those interested in attending ‘The Citizen’s Breakfast’, the meeting point is the Shelbourne Road entrance to the Aviva Stadium on June 16th, with two performances, starting at 11am and 3pm respectively. Tickets must be purchased in advance at Books On The Green in Sandymount, and are priced at €15, or €12.50 with concession, and all ages are welcome.

By Craig Kinsella