Dramatic take on trial that opened the US to Ulysses


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Dramatic take on trial that opened the US to Ulysses Dramatic take on trial that opened the US to Ulysses

A bawdy courtroom drama, telling the true story of the 1933 New York trial that liberated James Joyce’s Ulysses from American censors and made the Irish author a household name in that country, will be staged at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre next Tuesday, November 21, at 8pm.

The United States Vs Ulysses, by Colin Murphy comes to Galway following a four-night run at Dún Laoghaire’s Pavilion Theatre. A joint production between the playwright and Once Off Productions, it’s being presented in association with the Pavilion, where it received a rehearsed reading as part of Bloomsday 2022.

Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922, but it was immediately banned in the USA and, for ten years, people in that country who wanted to read it had to access contraband or bootlegged copies.

Then, an eager publisher and an ambitious lawyer joined forces to challenge the censors – and they succeeded.

This play by Colin Murphy, who is also a journalist and documentary maker, and whose previous dramas include Haughey/Gregory, Bailed Out and Guaranteed, as well as A Day in May with journalist Charlie Bird, follows the duo as they seek to convince Judge John M Woolsey that Ulysses isn’t obscene. Along the way, the book’s characters, including the memorable Molly Bloom, get into their heads.

The United States Vs Ulysses, began life as a short dramatic piece in the early days of Covid-19, when it was commissioned by the James Joyce Centre and presented on Zoom by AboutFace. It’s based in part on Declan Dunne’s novel, Set at Random, which the playrwight has described as “a homage to both Ulysses and the Woolsey Case”.

RTÉ Drama on One then commissioned Colin to write a radio play on the subject, which Conall Morrison directed. It was broadcast on Radio 1in June 2021,  with funding from Coimisiún Na Meán.

The stage play is also directed by Conall Morrison and the cast includes Ross Gaynor, Morgan C Jones, Mark Lambert, Janet Moran, Helen Norton and Jonathan White.

Tickets for next Tuesday’s performance at the Town Hall are available from, 091-569777 or at the box office and cost €22 (€20 concession), plus booking fee.

There will be a post-show talk with journalist and author Ray Burke, whose book Joyce County: Galway and James Joyce, (Artisan House Editions) explores Galway’s importance to the writer.

Pictured: The production of Colin Murphy’s play takes the form of a radio drama.  Photo: Patricio Cassinoni.




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