Review: Holy Cow! James Joyce slaughters the Scared Cows of English Literature

Photography: Bernard Peasley

Each year on 16 June, Dubliners and Joyce enthusiasts around the world gather together to commemorate and celebrate the life of Irish author, James Joyce for Bloomsday – aligning to recreate the tale told in the day of the life protagonist, Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, Joyce’s most celebrated novel.

Bloomsday in Melbourne, now in it’s 25th year of Joycean fiction celebration again took up it’s annual challenge to dramatise an element of Ulysses with a fresh perspective for the masses.
In 2018, writers and committee appointed Director, Jennifer Sarah Dean – Artistic Director for the Melbourne Shakespeare Company to take on this challenge and apply her own unique style.

Holy Cow!, this years’ interpretation is a theatrical adaptation of ‘Oxen of the Sun’ – the 14th chapter of Ulysses, and takes the audience on a satirical journey through over 30 literary periods starting out prim and proper with Medieval Morality plays and continues through ever-increasing levels of debauchery and english language degradation, reaching a somewhat modern day finale knee deep in Dickens, Ruskin and early twentieth century society.

Having not read the book, and bringing along a very basic level of Ulyssian insights, I found the storyline to be quite fast paced, with many twists and turns – at times to the uninitiated a little hard to keep up, but portrayed in an accessible way – and definitely inspired our next choice of reading material. A literary buff’s dream, interwoven with countless themes and layers which appealed both to those with a deep understanding of the text and others who enjoy reading historical literature and come, eager to absorb.

Holy Cow! was humorous, witty, and featured a super-intelligent script, punctuated with puns and gags reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, flawlessly executed by a high-calibre cast on opening night. We’re looking forward to what Bloomsday 2019 brings.

Holy Cow! was but one part of Bloomsday Melbourne’s annual celebrations in 2018.
For those who seek to further their knowledge or delve deeper into Joycean prose amongst fellow peers, the committee offers seminars and lunch each year. Check out their website for details on upcoming events. 

Reviewed and written by our guest writer –  Kerstyn Dance

Where: FortyFive Downstairs, 25 Flinders Lane, CBD
When: 13-17 June, 2018 – various times
More information: Check out their website.