Blurry figure of woman in darkness in foreground, one arm outstretched. In the background, a mirror reflects a main in a waistcoat ascending some stairs, looking towards the woman

REVIEW

CoisCéim Dance Theatre: Go to Blazes

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Justine Cooper and Jonathan Mitchell in CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s Go To Blazes by David Bolger. Photo © Ste Murray
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A mix of live and VR performance in response to Joyce’s classic novel becomes a heady, scented experience

Part of Ulysses 2.2 – a melting pot of multimedia treatments of James Joyce’s Ulysses, marking its centenary – 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.

Woman wearing VR headset looks to the right, with hands raised before her. A man in a waistcoat in the background looks outwards
Justine Cooper and Jonathan Mitchell in CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s Go To Blazes by David Bolger. Photo © Ste Murray
The bottom line: A live and virtual treatment of a classic text that comes right off the page into intoxicating life
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Dublin, Ireland
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coisceim.com/ulyssesepisode4

Cast: Justine Cooper, Jonathan Mitchell, Rosie Stebbing
Voiceover: Caitríona Ní Mhurchú
Director & choreographer: David Bolger
Composer & sound designer: Denis Clohessy
Projection designer: Neil O’Driscoll
Lighting designer: Matt Burke
Costume: Arran Murphy
Hair & makeup: Val Sherlock
Scents: Justine Cooper
Props: Martin Cahill
VR director: Enya Belak
VR filming & post-production: Igor Crnković
VR sound recordist: Alexis Nealon

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