Roger Marsh Composer

A Portrait of the Artist

Date                November 2016

Title                 A Portrait of the Artist

Subtitle          A musical and theatrical spectacle celebrating James Joyce

Category        Devised music theatre

Directors       Roger Marsh, Omar Sharhyar and James Whittle



The project description for students read as follows:

2016 marks the centenary of the publication of the Irish author James Joyce’s semi- autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.   This year’s Practical Project will be a devised spectacle created around the writings of James Joyce, which contain a wealth of musical reference and allusion, – to music hall songs, folk music, political ballads, operetta and grand opera.    Using texts from the novels and poetry, we will create a musical and theatrical portrait of Joyce.  There will be opportunities for acting, singing and playing, as usual, with no limitations – the number of roles will be entirely in our hands.   We will need arrangers and conductors, and perhaps composers: much of the music will call for new arrangements, and some of the texts might inspire new songs or vocal ensembles.

2016 also marks the centenary of the Easter Uprising, a significant and bloody episode in Irish political history.  In his later work Joyce makes constant reference to the politics of this period of Irish history, and we will consider how to factor that into our response to his work.

This was a steep learning curve for the students, who had to get to grips with the, often quite difficult, writing of Joyce, and at the same time investigate the troubled history of Ireland, which for most of them was almost completely unknown.   Passages from Joyce’s novels were selected for dramatization, some of his poems were set to music, and arrangements were made of some of the music referenced in the books. At the same time political (Republican) songs were learned, and some of the events surrounding the insurrection were examined for their dramatic potential. In addition, some students became fascinated by the sad life of Joyce’s brilliant daughter Lucia, and her story also found its way into the final show.


The Show

Act 1: The Artist as a Young Man (Rising)

Mutt and Jute: an ancient invasion.  (from Finnegans Wake)

A young man’s awakening  (from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)

The Wellington Museum  (from Finnegans Wake)

The Fires of Hell (from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)

Wandering Rocks and a Royal bust up.  (from Ulysses)

The Rising Moon  (the Republican song ‘Rising of the moon’ leading to the reading of the 2016 declaration)


Act 2: The Artist as a Young Woman (Falling)

Dancing with Daddy – a brilliant daughter (A ballet summarizing the life of Lucia Joyce)

Eveline – a bid for escape  (from Dubliners)

Epiphany  (from Ulysses)

Museum of the Rebellion (a dramatization of the suppression of the rebellion)

A final curtain and a Wake  (The ballad of Finnegans Wake and a ceilidh with audience participation)


Cast list


  Joyce with guitar and Lucia   Cyclops   A Nation Once Again   Ceilidh   Finnegans Wake    A firing squad    Samuel Beckett dances with Lucia Lucia ragtime   The Museyroom ladies   Chamber Music  Finnegans Wake  Then You’ll Remember Me

 The Croppy Boy  Wandering Rocks   The Rising of the Moon  Hell fire Sermon  Nighttown  Eveline serenaded with Mozart Stephen school scene