Part of Ulysses 2.2 – a melting pot of multimedia treatments marking the centenary of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses David Bolger’s Go To Blazes for Coiscéim Dance Theatre mixes live performance and virtual reality in response to Chapter 4, which introduces our (anti)hero Bloom, his faithless wife Molly, and the sights, sounds and smells of their Dublin home and neighbourhood. At 30 minutes, it is as bitesize and evocative as the 14 pages that inspired it.
Beginning with lessons in the properties of perfume, Justine Cooper uses jars and sprays of lotions and potions to conjure the (mal)odours of the fragrant text – from the acidity of urine to the burnt caramel of porter – matching their top, middle and base notes to points on the musical scale. So far, so Joycean.
The movement begins when the action transitions from real to virtual. Through 3D goggles, an impressive streetscape mixing past with present morphs to a ghostly interior world. Rosie Stebbing draws us in, her dance of the seven sails going from fluid to frenetic before she whirls like a dervish and disappears into a projected version of herself. Knives sharpen and blood spatters as the screens flood with images of butchery, the acrid smell of searing flesh filling our other senses. Smoke fogs up our goggles.
When it clears, Cooper is back, this time as Molly to Jonathan Mitchell’s Bloom. Their gestures mirror each other, with weight play holding them up and letting them down. There are hints of powerplay: she dances on tables while he promenades around her; he holds the safety cord so that she can fly; he cradles a tablecloth like an infant, suggesting an unfathomable loss. But there’s no doubting who’s in charge as Denis Clohessy’s driving soundscape climaxes and Molly subjugates her cuckold – literally walking all over him. A short trio of lifts and falls follows before Molly dons goggles herself, striking staccato poses.
All too quickly, it’s over. We emerge intoxicated from the heady cocktail of actual and virtual, past and present, scents and sensibility.