- 31 May 23
Finnegans Wake was first published on May 4th 1939 in New York (Viking Press) and London (Faber & Faber), after James Joyce spent 17 years on its composition.
Canadian theatre company One Little Goat is launching its six-year James Joyce project based on Finnegans Wake this June at Bloomsday Festival.
Marking a first-of-its-kind filmed reading, the entire novel has been painstakingly reproduced. The incredible results will be screened in the form of three chapters per year.
Chapter 1, filmed live in Toronto, is set to premiere at the 69th annual Bloomsday Festival, Dublin on June 16th. Two screenings, 10am and 2pm, will air at the James Joyce Centre’s Volta Room.
Celebrated Irish-Canadian actor Richard Harte will be reading all-but-one of 17 sprawling chapters before live audiences in various cities and locations worldwide. Irish-Canadian performer Pip Dwyer will read Chapter 8 (the “washerwomen”).
Both director Adam Seelig and actor Richard Harte will be on hand to bring one of the most mesmerisingly elusive novels of the 20th century to life. Admission is free.
On Thursday, June 15th, Bloomsday Festival will also screen excerpts of the film as part of its “Joycean Shorts” programme screening from 4pm to 6pm, in the Volta Room at the James Joyce Centre. Tickets are €5 here.
A deep-dive into Joyce’s ribald humour and tongue-twisting virtuosity, Chapter 1, which runs 86 minutes, introduces us to the novel’s major themes (the perpetual rise and fall of humanity) and characters (HCE, Anna Livia Plurabelle), as the book’s vast dreamscape begins to unfold through its “riverrun” of language.
The Dublin-born Harte, known in Joyce circles for his 22-year involvement in Toronto’s annual Bloomsday readings, is joined by Irish-Canadian folksinger Kevin Kennedy who performs the Finnegan’s Wake Irish-American folk song that inspired Joyce’s title (and from which Joyce famously removed the apostrophe, transforming “wake” into a verb).
This is Harte’s 7th production with One Little Goat, the company devoted to contemporary poetic theatre, which Seelig founded in New York in 2002 and which has been based in Toronto since 2005.
According to Seelig, Harte’s command of Joyce’s language, imagery and grammatical inventiveness is essential for a theatre-literary project of this unique ambition. Subtitles follow standard line numbers and pagination of the 628-page book.
At a pace of three Chapters a year (including 2023), the project is anticipated to film through 2028 and clock in at an estimated 30 hours.
“Richard Harte is one of the people on the planet to recite Finnegans Wake,” Seelig comments. “Richard doesn’t just read it, he plays it, he almost sings it. He speaks fluent Joyce. If you’re familiar with the ‘Wake,’ you’re in for a wonderful interpretation. If you aren’t, Richard’s reading will open the door.”
Chapter 2 will be filmed in front of a live audience on Monday, June 26th at Noonan’s Irish Pub in Toronto, followed by Chapter 3 in autumn.
Adam Seelig adds about the project: “While each chapter will premiere in a different city or location, each episode will be released individually online subsequent to its premieres. Our aim is to make one of the most celebrated – and bewildering - novels of the 20th century widely available and accessible.”
One Little Goat will screen and release the completed project in its entirety in time for the 90th anniversary of the book’s publication on May 4, 2029.
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