Sole Flower, Spidered Soul – New Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Lara Kuhnis

Writer: Fèilim James

Director: Patrick Joseph Byrnes

In life, there are ‘car-crash’ moments one cannot look away from. It’s a terrible human affliction, to be fascinated by the tragedies of others; and yet we read the disaster articles first, and gossip about them later. Sole Flower, Spidered Soul follows the devastating life events of Ireland’s beloved James Joyce, and his estranged daughter Lucia.

Much is known about Joyce’s life, but less is known about Lucia – who spent the majority of her life staring at the walls of an insane asylum, where she would be kept until her death a near fifty years after admittance.

The script is well written and it’s clear writer Fèilim James has a deep passion and interest in Joyce and his life. I felt that the writing was by far the most interesting thing about the show; which is really for a very particular audience. The play explores the idea of a ‘Clown’ (aka a God) played by Michael McCabe giving both Lucia and Joyce another shot at life again. The body of the play follows Lucia practically begging her father to agree and start her life over. However, The Clown has made clear to Joyce and Lucia that it’s not certain Joyce would receive even a fraction of the critical acclaim he achieved after his death, but that Lucia would get to live a life outside of the asylum. We follow Joyce’s internal struggle over ego and legacy. Personally, it felt more about a famous father coming to terms with his limitations and accepting that not all great men make great fathers. This is a much more relatable topic for a wider audience.

McCabe as the ‘Clown’ was absolutely wonderful. Not only did the performance do justice to what is a well written script; but I often found myself watching him during scenes where he was not even talking, because he never broke out of character. McCabe’s stage presence was second to none on that stage and I would gladly watch any show he is performing in.

Sole Flower, Spidered Soul is a well written theatrical ode to James Joyce, and his impact on the literary world. McCabe as the clown was the only memorable performance, and the stage set-up was quite lacklustre; which is a real shame given they had elements of really interesting design choices – such as a projecting screen with relevant images, which lost its meaning of because characters kept walking in front of it. Small changes can make big impacts on an audience.

Runs Until 15th June 2024.

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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