Life Shop Till You Drop!

Clodagh_Reid_in_LifeShoptillyouDrop_Photo_Steve_Wilson  The hilarious rise and fall of Ireland’s first self-help guru. Life Shop till you Drop! is the Sassy Girl’s Self-Help Solution. The show begun life in January 2007 in Bewleys Café Theatre, Dublin. It then played five National Tours and one International Tour to Abu Dhabi, totalling 120 performances up and down the country from the Cork Midsummer Festival to Belfast’s Out to Lunch Festival and everywhere in between.

Ailish McGovern is an unfulfilled Recruitment Consultant. For Ailish life would be perfect if she had a marriage proposal, a glamorous job, and most importantly won Irish Tatler Woman of the Year. And so she selects this as the year in which she will transform her life, by applying all of the instructions and mantras of self-help gurus.

Ailish goes speed dating, feng shuis her 100% mortgaged apartment and targets the perfect boyfriend, using the New York manual ‘Your soul mate is out there and missing you.’ Next on her hit list is taking over her boss’ job using ‘The work secrets only successful people know!’  However, no self-help book that she has studied teaches that pride comes before a fall. A cautionary tale, or more likely, a wickedly fun spoof on our love of going life shopping.


What the Critics Say

“Hilarious – the overriding tone is light and fun, thanks to Alice Coghlan’s wonderfully feel-good script and Reid’s ability to inhabit a number of comic characters” – Dublin Metro  


“Coghlan’s clever script and pitch perfect self-help jargon are a delight”  -Sunday Tribune


“Reid plays Ailish with comic versatility, generating continuous laughter” -The Irish Times


“This one-woman farce is a fast paced parody of the self help industry, showing its star’s comic range in male and female characters” –  The Sunday Times


“Brilliant -we laughed ourselves silly” – Kildare FM


“Delicious Froth” – Limerick Post


“Particularly Funny” – Galway Advertiser

Read Full Reviews



lifeshop    b_LifeShop-L

Listen to

Marie O’Riordan of Arty Facts: Out & About for KFM (Radio Kildare) interviewed Alice Coghlan and Clodagh Reid after seeing the show at the Moat Theatre in Naas.


Alice Coghlan and Clodagh Reid talked about the show on Roisín Ingle’s Saturday morning Newstalk radio show.


Clodagh Reid in Studio with Ailish McGovern herself; Barry Barton, her first beau; Concepta the owner of A Stór mo Chroí dating agency, and Elizabeth her boss at Shooting Star Recruitment all drop in for a chat on EastCoast FM



From Wonderland Productions Ltd.
Starring:  Clodagh Reid

The Production Team
Written/Directed:  Alice Coghlan
Devised in collaboration with:  Clodagh Reid
Original idea by:  Alice Coghlan
Original Sound:  Robert Delahunty
Costume Design:  Aisling NicEoin
Lighting Design:  Moyra D’Arcy
Set Design:  Alice Coghlan
Producer:  Gordon Gaffney
Photography:  Steve Wilson


Reviews: La Locandiera

The Times (Thursday 2nd September 2010)

The Dublin-based company Wonderland, founded in 2003 by Alice Coghlan, staged her adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s robust comedy La Locandiera in a brightly-lit room at the Vittoria Restaurant in Edinburgh. The audience were treated like guests at an inn in 18th-century Florence, observing the action as we downed a lip-smacking three-course meal. Featuring six game actors, some of whom helped to serve the food, this was a hearty, enjoyable piece of dinner-theatre centred round 18th-century sexual politics and slightly reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew.

Claire Jenkins played the saucy, scheming innkeeper Mirandolina in the spirit of a young Gina Lollobrigida, with a handful of mainly doting men understandably sucked into her bounteous orbit. Chief among them was Connolly Heron’s Ulster Gentleman, a skinny-legged figure whose staunch resistance to the fairer sex was gradually whittled away.

By the time that dessert came round this self-styled woman-hater was more than ready to eat out of her hand. There was also particularly good support from Damien O’Donnell as two contrasting manservants, one of whom demonstrated a nice line in ad-lib exchanges with the paying punters.

Fringe Guru, Edinburgh Fringe Festival  (Tuesday 24th August 2010) ✮✮✮✮

It’s not every day that you enter a twenty-first century Italian restaurant and find yourself in an eighteenth century Florentine inn. This is just what Wonderland’s production of La Locandiera delivers, however, in an innovative and highly entertaining evening of revelry, fine wine, great food, and interesting, if unconventional, company.

This particular company is made up of an avowed misogynist, a shameless scrounger, a presumptuous and persistent benefactor and of course the coquettish Mirandolina, mistress of the inn, played superbly by Claire Jenkins. Connolly Heron, as the initially steel-hearted woman-hater, does the traditionally comic transition from love-hater to love-slave particularly well; and the play proves a raucous and hilarious example of mans insecurities, womans infidelities and loves indignities.

The Italian restaurant that is the venue for La Locandiera is a fitting venue for this comedy set in 1750s Florence, and the play sits remarkably well within the evenings programme, with the three acts coinciding with the three courses of the meal. Given that it is first and foremost a theatrical performance, uninspiring food might be forgiven, but there is no need to make excuses for the menu at Restaurant Vittoria; it proves to be good value for money and, happily, decidedly twenty-first century.

The food,however, is one of the only apparently modern factors in the room in which the performance is staged: the cast frequently double as waiters, so that the audience become the guests at Mirandolina?s inn, privy to the same flirtatious behaviour as her onstage customers. The women in the audience, too, will feel privileged to be courted by some of Mirandolina’s many suitors, and anyone who would feel uncomfortable being serenaded by a man with a wig and powdered face should make an effort to avoid eye contact with the performers.

The company, then, manage to transform this small area into what genuinely feels like an eighteenth century tavern, and the acting, omic and lively, cannnot be faulted…

It is the experience as a whole that is worth paying for. In the huge programme of shows at the Fringe, La Locandiera, with its well-translated and modernised script, charismatic cast and ingenious staging, is memorable and charming.

The Skinny, Edinburgh Fringe Festival (August 2010) ✮✮✮✮

One of the more expensive nights on the Fringe – admittedly justified by the four course meal – La Locandiera is a thoroughly contemporary take on the classic dinner theatre and an eighteenth century classic. Revolving around a battle of the sexes, which is equally a battle of national temperaments, it is an early entry in the gender wars of the modern era.

If the sexual politics are firmly hetero-normative, the script has sympathy for both male and female. Even the villain, an Ulster Gentleman, is given justification: the heroine, the Italian innkeeper, is morally ambiguous enough to be both temptress and puritan. Light comedy from a pair of aristocratic suitors rounds out the plot – their rivalry is both the context for the central conflict and a curt satire on the obsessions with money and status.

The proceedings gallop along, musical interludes break up the arguments about men and women and the elongated seduction, the misogynist is defeated and the appropriate marriage is arranged. The whole cast are delightful, the serious issues are treated with appropriate levity and the interactions between cast and audience are beautifully handled.

An example of how imaginative setting – an Italian restaurant – and clear direction can take an apparently irrelevant play and make it engaging, Wonderland Productions have reinvented light entertainment with a starter of lush costume, a side order of philosophical debate, a main course of excellent performances and a sweet desert of song and dance.

Three Weeks, Edinburgh Fringe Festival  (Saturday 14th August 2010) ✮✮✮✮

Thespian and culinary treats abound in this unique and playful site-specific production of Goldoni’s classic Italian comedy, which takes place in Edinburgh’s stylish Vittoria Restaurant.
The audience find themselves in the midst of the action, tucking into their dinner as lively banter and sword fights literally surround them. The talented cast of six – most notably, Damien O’Donnell (Fabrizio/The Manservant) – establish a great rapport with the audience, skilfully transforming the intimate space into an eighteenth-century Florentine inn, and bursting now and then into joyous song.

Eccentric characters, live music and a witty script coupled with creative staging and inspired direction by Alice Coghlan make for a memorable theatrical experience; we piled out of the venue with full bellies and full hearts.

Edinburgh Spotlight, Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Tuesday 10th August 2010)

In Goldoni’s La Locandiera or ‘The Mistress of the Inn’, the gentlemen fall at the feet of said mistress – all bar one, known in this production as ‘The Ulster Gentleman’. He has professed himself a hater of women who has never been in love and never will: bit of a challenge that – and La Locandiera herself, Mirandolina, takes it up to amusing and even thought-provoking effect.

This battle of the sexes is tantalisingly presented in one of Edinburgh’s most popular Italian restaurants complete with a four course meal (menu available from Wonderland Productions’ website). The food is fine and the story is very engaging as Mirandolina continues to play with her numerous competitive beaux while pursuing the affections of the recalcitrant gentleman.

The performances are confident and Mirandolina herself easily holds centre stage with a witty, teasing and layered performance. The audience is treated to bantering interaction from the cast, Goldoni’s witty dialogue amusingly delivered and enjoyed, and actors filling the space, seemingly familiar with the restaurant’s bar and handling these real props well. Fine serenading accompanies the food and punctuates the action, using popular pieces both classical and modern.

The laid-back feel of the presentation sometimes lacks forward momentum, though both Mirandolina and the Conte – her extravagantly rich admirer – tend to push things on again. The actor playing her loyal servant (and would-be husband) Fabrizio plays with the audience very well, also in his guise as the Ulster Gent’s servant.

The show itself is entertaining, both witty and interesting, and the nature of this dinner-entertainment presentation means that the company you keep and atmosphere in the restaurant will definitely contribute to your enjoyment of the piece.

Irish Mail on Sunday (Sunday 15th March 2009) ✮✮✮✮

Delicious Florentine Fancy
If you fancy an unusual evening out, you couldn’t do better than this eighteenth century Italian comedy of love and manners, which includes in the ticket price an excellent three-course tapas meal with wine.

Wonderland Productions has been making the running in recent years with site-specific presentations and this one is perfect for the intimate setting of the Port House Tapas Bar which, for the night, becomes the Florentine inn of the flirtatious Mirandolina, the hostess of the title. The action occurs in the inn, between the bar and the tables where the audiences sit as punters with whom the cast often interact.

The wealthy old roué (Mal Whyte) competes with a penniless marquis (Neill Fleming) and the humble waiter (Damien O’Donnell) for the hand of Mirandolina (Claire Jenkins). But the arrogant gentleman from Ulster (Connolly Heron) scoffs at the idiocy of men humiliating themselves for women.

The feisty Mirandolina sets out to break down the Irishman’s self-assurance and there is some lovely interaction between Jenkins and Heron in this teasing battle of the sexes. The characters also sing songs to guitar accompaniment. The comic touch is so assured that they even get away with playing the Dean Martin hit, That’s Amore.

The tantalising question is whether Mirandolina is looking for the love of the Irishman or simply using her wiles to conquer his misogyny. The brisk comedy ridicules the pretensions of the aristocracy while applauding the ordinary folk. Damien O’Donnell doubles splendidly as the Irishman’s manservant.

Translation and direction are by Alice Coghlan, who makes expert use of the small space. It’s the sort of show that returns play-going to the realms of pure entertainment.

Sunday Business Post  (Sunday 8th March 2009) ✮✮✮✮

Wonderland Production’s new site-specific show blends live theatre with gourmet dining. Based on Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century comedy, it transforms the Port House tapas bar in Dublin city centre into a Florentine inn.

The bare brick walls of the restaurant require little set dressing, and the candlelit ambience laid out by the frock-coated, guitar strumming actors and the ravishing landlady Mirandolina set the scene for the complex romantic games that will unfold.

The audience are treated by the actors as guests, charming them with playful eye contact and direct asides. The cast confidently negotiates a two way relationship with the spectators, although it never becomes intrusive.

The comedy is an old-fashioned kind – four men vexed by a woman’s wily ways – but the eventual reversal, in which Mirandolina manipulates her happy-ever after, could almost be read as an early proto-feminist gesture. But the drama is more playful than political.

In a traditional theatre setting, this would make for gently amusing theatre, but what makes La Locandiera so special is that the dining experience that Wonderland Productions simultaneously offers the audience. This is not merely because the ticket price includes a three course meal and a glass of wine, but because the idea is so well integrated into the action.

At the end of the first act, for example, Mirandolina herself serves us while confessing her devious plan. It is an intimate, charming conceit.

The cast provides transitional musical entertainment between the acts – Damien O’Donnell on guitar, the irrepressible Mal Whyte on bodhrán, and Claire Jenkins sweet voiced Mirandolina singing with support from Connolly Heron and Neil Fleming.

Director Alice Coghlan makes a slight slip here with her choice of music, crowd-pleasing anthems like That’s Amore break the otherwise carefully constructed frame. However, Tara Jones Hamilton’s brilliantly constructed costumes- which survive close scrutiny even in this intimate setting – are testament to the attention to detail that Coghlan achieves throughout La Locandiera.

This is not just an unusual event, but one that is executed almost to perfection.

Lucy White, Metro  (Friday 6th March 2009) ✮✮✮✮

Florentine fops, farce and feminine wiles combine for a unique night of 18th century Carlo Goldoni entertainment upstairs at the Port House tapas bar. Mirandolina (Claire Jenkins) is ‘La Locandiera’ – an inn keeper and a coquette to boot, driving her male tenants to distraction, among them the Marchese (Neill Fleming), a poodle-haired miserly dandy and The Conte (Mal Whyte) a powder puffed nobleman who showers her with diamonds. She ‘treats herself to all of them’ once in a while, but by massaging their egos rather than their sweaty breeches, which only makes them want her more. But when an Ulster Gentleman (Connolly Heron) checks in and declares that he is ‘the enemy of all women and Italian women in particular’ proclaiming that he would rather ‘endure a latent strain of malaria’ than marriage, the furious Mirandolina vows to vindicate her sex by making him fall in love with her.

An exuberant battle of the sexes ensues between the restaurants tables, the buffoonery interspersed with live Neapolitan arias, folk and pop songs. Wisely Jenkins represents Mirandolina as a woman’s woman rather than a brazen hussy, winning over the female members of the audience with conspiratorial asides, and Damien O’Donnell plays both Fabrizio and the Gentleman’s manservant charmingly…

La Locandiera is a tasty prospect, not least for the three course dinner and a glass of wine that accompanies the performance.

The Irish Times (Sunday 8th March 2009)

“The savage Irish beast slowly moves towards domestication!” The comedy La Locandiera was written by Carlo Goldoni in Venice in 1753. A cheeky, frothy piece about playacting, which questions the role of women in Italian society, it brought to the stage the character of a seductive, feisty and independently minded innkeeper called Mirandolina.

Mirandolina is a woman who controls not just the purse-strings but the hearts and longings of her various bewigged and bewitched male guests, ultimately turning her attentions to the inn’s latest arrival, the misogynistic Ulster Gentleman, who would rather endure “the latent strains of malaria” than the attentions of a woman. Har, har.

Wonderland Productions, a young company under the directorship of Alice Coghlan, has shown spirit in its staging of classical theatre, recently bringing a Leoncavallo opera to lunchtime audiences and also producing a site-specific production of Molière’s The Miser. In truth, its latest offering is a somewhat dusty farce, but the company has once again set itself a challenge in terms of form. Innovatively, the piece is performed as a theatrical cabaret, with the upstairs bar of the Port House doubling as an 18th-century Italian inn, where the drama, played out around the restaurant tables, is accompanied by wine and tapas.

This is a warm, well-intentioned piece of theatre, and, in this intimate setting, the five musically accomplished actors give relaxed and polished performances. Connolly Heron, as the Ulster Gentleman, with his longing for fine linen and his capitulating misogyny, is terrific, as are Mal Whyte, Neill Fleming and Damien O’Donnell as aspiring suitors to Mirandolina (the seductively able Claire Jenkins).

La Locandiera provides a convivial evening, and Wonderland is to be congratulated on pushing ahead with its singular vision.


Back to La Locandiera Production Details             Read More Wonderland Reviews


The Hostage

 b_TheHostage-P 1960: Tonight rhe New IRA kidnapped a nineteen-year-old soldier as he was leaving an Armagh Dance Hall. The IRA declares that it will shoot hostage Leslie Williams, if their ‘Belfast Boy’ is executed at Belfast Gaol tomorrow morning.

Wonderland’s site-specific staging of Brendan Behan’s great tragicomedy transforms the birthplace of Padraic Pearse, the martyred leader of the Easter Rising, into the 1960s Dublin brothel-cum-safe house where the IRA hold Leslie Williams hostage – and where you can ‘sit up’ for the night with him. This historic Victorian terrace is home to fallen rebel heroes, homosexual navvies, catholic evangelists, pimps, whores, convent girls and decaying civil servants who are loyal to the nationalist cause. They entertain Private Williams with jigs and reels, romance, rock ‘n’ roll dancing, rebel songs and tales of Ireland’s glorious past, whilst the IRA guards wait for a reprieve from Belfast – or the executions of the coming dawn.

Wonderland’s staging of The Hostage took place from the 21st July to the 16th August 2009 at the James Joyce Centre, Dublin.

b_TheHostage-LListen to:


RTÉ’s Lyric FM’s Artszone, presented by Aedín Gormley, discusses the show with Alice Coghlan & Morgan Cooke

Newstalk Culture Shock radio show with Tom Dunne interviews Alice Coghlan about The Hostage.


a_TheHostageListen to 2 songs from the show by Morgan Cooke

#1: “We’re Here Because We’re Queer” features Morgan Cooke, Colm O’Brien, Michael Bates & Diana O’Connor.

#2: “Open the Door Softly” features Morgan Cooke and Kerrie O’Sullivan.

Credits: Music is by Morgan Cooke; Roseanne Lynch on Sax and Lyrics by Brendan Behan.


What the Critics Say

“Without any risk of overstatement, Wonderland Productions is a company that is really going places. A plucky, ideas-driven and indefatigable theatre group, they have had no easy access to conventional venues and have learned to improvise handsomely, staging their works in various site-specific venues.” –  The Irish Times


“Rarely was a company so aptly named” – Centre Stage, Dublin City FM


“Delivered with such exhilarating enthusiasm” – The Irish Mail on Sunday


“Terrific direction and choreography by Alice Coghlan” –  The Sunday Independent


“A worthy triumph of the imagination” –  The Sunday Times


“What a great choice of play for Wonderland to take on…the site-specificness is wonderful and the music works so well” -Lyric FM Artszone


“Highly recommended” – Dublin City FM


“One not to miss” – The Independent

 Read Full Reviews


From Wonderland Productions Ltd.
Michael Bates, Morgan Cooke, Neill Fleming, Robert Harrington, Roseanne Lynch, Eithne McGuinness, Colm O’Brien, Diana O’Connor, Noel O’Shea, Kerrie O’Sullivan, Martin Philips, Lesa Thurman, Francis Xavier Usanga.

The Production Team:
Director & Choreographer: Alice Coghlan
Producer: Nina Antonioli
Composer: Morgan Cooke
Lyrics by: Brendan Behan
Musical Director: Morgan Cooke
Costume Design: Yvonne Carry & Tara Mulvihill
Set Designer: Nimah Dunphy
Props Designer: Eve Parnell
Hair Dressing: Joan Thorpe
Make-Up: Peter Carroll
Fight Director: Keith Ward
Assistant Musical Director: Stella Konik
Assistant Director: Sarah Finlay
Stage Manager: Siobhan Killen
Assistant Stage Managers: Jean Igoe & Laura Weafer
Company Administration: Grainne Lynch
Photography: Clare Conway
Poster/Flyer, Programme & Web:


Reviews: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Nikki Walsh, The Irish Independent, Weekend Review (Saturday 10th April 2010)

Cucumber sandwiches, warm buttered scones and steaming pots of tea are just some of the treats you can expect to be served at Wonderland Production’s latest show, a reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray. One of the many performances that will be held in Dublin as part of the ‘One City, One Book’ project, the show is more an imaginative re-enactment of the book than a reading, something Wonderland’s founder and artistic director Alice Coghlan likes to call “a play with a narrative”.“We are asking the audience to imagine everything with us” says Alice.

Taking the book to the stage, or rather the James Joyce Tea Rooms of Bewley’s, has been the biggest challenge of the production. “Wilde wrote the book as a young man and it is overwritten; there are a lot of repetitions. We are cleaning that up, getting to the point. The actors only speak Wilde’s words and it feels as if they are passing the narrative back and forth. It’s good for the book.”

Of course it doesn’t get more Wildean than afternoon tea, and its ceremony – not to mention the sense of theatre- has been incorporated in to the show, with the actors helping themselves to the odd cuppa as they tell each other, and the audience, the story.
Alice has taken her menu very seriously with promises of towering cake stands, mini croissants and calorific buns. “It captures the hedonistic spirit of the book perfectly,” she says. “It allows us to do what Wilde did – play with his audience. They think they are indulging in the niceties, the formalities of afternoon tea, and then we hit them with a story that, despite its obsession with surfaces and masks, has a dark underbelly.”

Presenting a double bill of food and theatre is something the Wonderland are good at. In 2008, their lunchtime opera at Bewley’s Café Theatre was a big hit with Dublin audiences while, more recently, their translation of the obscure restoration comedy La Locandiera, was served up alongside a four-course tapas menu, re-introducing Irish audience to the concept of dinner theatre.
It’s a refreshing approach that Alice likes to describe as “interactive theatre” and which has, over the last seven years, resulted in a wide range of shows, from cheeky musicals to French comedies in site specific locations. ”Our first show was a comedy ghost show in a pub” says Alice. “Actors were crawling through audiences chairs.”

Its not for the fainthearted. Ask Alice about the company’s near disasters and she is happy to list, with the amusment of a seasoned pro – missing cutlery, flaming plates of food and boisterous audiences are all hazards of the job. But engaging with audiences makes for great banter and some memorable one-liners. “In La Locandiera one of our actors asks the audience for advice as to whether he should marry. Someone shouted, ‘Only with a pre-nup!”

At a time when most theatre companies are reeling from budget cuts, Wonderland looks set to capitalise on years of hard graft and creativity. “We never got any funding,” says Alice, “so we are used to fending for ourselves. Passion has been the only think we have had to incentivise our projects and that has been no bad thing,. Money has and will always be a problem, but by being independent we have also had the freedom to do what we want.”
This freedom, and passion, has resulted in a number of successes, including Life: Shop Till You Drop, a one-woman, one act play that Alice first wrote and directed in 2007, now on its fifth international tour. Next came a production of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, staged in the birthplace of Padraig Pearse, which opened to rave reviews last year. La Locandiera meanwhile goes to the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Now firmly installed as artists in residence at the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, where they have received a lot of support from local audiences, Coghlan’s vision for the future is clear. “We’ve always tended to be ambitious and now its time to raise the bar. This year seems to have been about the classics but next year I would like us to return to opera and also to experiment with new writing.

Until then its back to rehearsals. With actors Michael James Ford, Simon Coury and Michael Winder all veterans of the Gate and no strangers to Wilde’s work, heading the line-up, it will be interesting to see what Dubliners make of the place Wonderland will create beyond the private imaginations of the reader and within the public space of the theatre, served with tea and lashings of Wildean wit.

The Picture of Dorian Gray takes place in the James Joyce Tearoom at Bewley’s of Grafton St from April 13 to May 1 at 4.30pm. Booking can be made on 0818 205 205 or online at


Louise Finn, The Dubliner    (Sep 2010) ✮✮✮✮


The tale of The Picture of Dorian Gray has aged well. Wilde’s exploration of the allure of youth is as fresh faced and relevant today as it was when first published in 1890. We exist in an era obsessed with remaining forever young. Had he made his pact today, Dorian would probably be working in Hollywood.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, Dorian Gray sits for a portrait by the artist Basil Hallward who thinks the picture might be the his finest piece of work yet. Just before he finishes, his friend Lord henry Wotton calls and is transfixed by Dorian’s beauty and youth. He advises Dorian that the best way to live is in a haze of hedonism and aestheticism. The portrait is triumphantly unveiled and on seeing it, with Lord Henry’s words in his mind, Gray makes a plea that he should not age but rather the picture will.

Complex themes aside, Wilde’s novel relies heavily on the imagination of the reader to conjure up the beauty and monstrosity of its titular character making it a tall order to adapt, especially into one act. But Alice Coghan has done a sterling job in both adaptation and direction, extracting the most relevant exchanged and cleverly allowing the actors to deliver passages of prose that move the story along.

The staging, just after dinner in Bewleys beautiful James Joyce balcony, lends a touch of the Victorian drawing room to proceedings and helps in the creation of a rather decent atmosphere. This is aided by the fact that we’re polishing off our lemon tart and vino when the actors begin playing: indulging in naughty pleasures while being warned about their folly. The biggest problem for any adaptation of Dorian is finding someone who matches our idea of what he should look like. His transfixing beauty and charm are vital and initially Michael Winder is not the traditional matinee idol hottie that recent film adaptations have cast. But there’s something striking about him and the actors’ change from the innocent boy to the corrupt villain happens so subtly that we identify with Basil’s shock in realising this young man has become a monster. A very nuanced performance.

Winder is supported by Michael James Ford and Simon Coury who both gave flawlessly executed, commanding performances. It’s no mean feat to keep a play going when you’re eyeballing someone chewing on desert or trying to speak over the street cleaning machines passing by outside. Mind you, you probably shouldn’t listen to anything this review says, as Lord Henry remarks “Beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.” So go see it and judge for yourself.


Dave Madden, ( 7th Apr 2011)

Last year’s choice for One City, One Book was Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, and as part of the festival Wonderland Theatre put on a play of the book in Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street. The show received rave reviews (“must see theatre”, “an exquisite adaptation”) so perhaps unsurprisingly Wonderland have brought it back for another run in the same beautiful setting of Bewley’s. This time it’s a dinner show. This is a very distinctive play. There’s no stage – the actors use the same space the patrons are dining in. Even the most snug, intimate of theatres can’t match the immediacy of this. With the spectators so close to the actors the quality of the acting has to be high, and it is. The room itself is beautiful, and very well suited to the play; props used in the play blend easily into the decor. The story is a well-known one; the story of a young man, Dorian Gray, given the chance to keep his youth and beauty beyond natural limits. It’s surprisingly intense, though that might be due to the setting. As an adaptation it’s superb – it really has the flavour and wit of Wilde’s own plays. Dinner is served by Bewley’s prior to the start of the show. (It’s similar to their lunch menu in portion size.) I’d suggest the tagliatelle, as it’s something of a signature dish. The dessert was also good and the coffee was excellent. The only small concern I’d express is that at one hour and thirty minutes without an interval, the play is quite demanding. Don’t let that put you off – just be aware that if you’re tired after a long day’s work, the intimacy of the setting might make this play less relaxing than most. If however you’re a tourist – wow! Wilde plus Bewley’s is a great combination. I’d also recommend the play very highly if you’re a frequent theatre-goer looking for something unusual and different. Conclusion: enjoyable, well-acted and novel. If you missed it last year, give it a g


Peter Crawley, The Irish Times (Sep 2010)

“All art is quite useless,” wrote Oscar Wilde, approvingly, in the preface to his only novel. The phenomenon of dinner theatre might support the claim, where art is something to be consumed along with a main course and desert; diverting, nourishing and easily digested.

Adapter and director Alice Coghlan is faithful to Wilde’s Gothic melodrama. The spine of the narrative is retained, its slimmed-down prose divided neatly between three protagonists: the initially beatific Dorian (Michael Winder), his besotted portraitist Basil Hallward (Michael James Ford), and his serpentine corruptor Lord Henry (Simon Coury- all of whom share the narrator’s voice. One happy consequence is that Wilde’s familiar epigrams are treated fondly but without reverence.

The freshest aspect of Coghlan’s reading is in its clear-sighted simplicity. There is no set to speak of, apart from an empty gilt-edged picture frame, and designer Tara Jones-Hamilton wisely decides that a story bound between social clubs, drawing rooms and a dusty attic will feel right at home on the third floor of Bewleys. The space slightly hampers our access to the performances, though, where Michael James Ford’s saturnine longing makes a more satisfyingly intriguing character than the head-tossing figure of the novel, while Simon Coury is the embodiment of subversive languor.

The near-erotic fascination the men have for the boys youth is laid on thick, with heavy echoes of Wilde’s own sexual double life: it is “a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter”, as Basil might say. That may explain the marginal role of women, but it leads the production into one distracting tonal mis-step when Ford makes a parodic appearance as Lady Henry. Elsewhere, the abandoned actress, Sybil Vain, is more pointedly and poignantly represented by an empty chair and the gesture is both intelligent and sinister: crystallising the novel’s dualities between reality and appearance, truth and construct, life and art. If Winder’s Dorian leaves a fainter impression, it’s because Wilde’s beautiful, impressionable anti-hero is, at root, a compelling cipher. That empty picture frame says it all. As we project our imagined portrait of degradation and disfigurement between its edges, Wonderland rekindles Wilde’s fascinating idea. Ultimately, Dorian is not a picture of evil, but a blank canvas for our own guilt, sins and desires.

Declan Burke, The Sunday Times (Sunday 2nd May 2010)


Performed in the round at the James Joyce Tea Room at Bewley’s Cafe, this production creates an intimacy designed to amplify the nuances on Oscar Wilde’s gothic take on the libertarian credo. Dorian Gray (Michael Winder) evolves from a callow narcissist to soulless killer, his journey is observed by his artist friend, Basil (Michael James Ford), and his predatory Svengali, Lord Henry (Simon Coury), with Ford and Coury also playing a number of smaller parts. An exquisite adaptation by Alice Coghlan, who also directs, sees all three characters narrating events, which has the effect of drawing the audience in, as the actors move through the tables, and implicate the audience in Dorian’s immorality. A deceptively sedate pace belies a wealth of compelling narrative while a judicious use of Wildean epigrams distracts from the suddenness with which Dorian is transformed into a monster. All three performances are strong, although the initially cherubic Winder is superb in revealing the full ramifications of the “horrible sympathy” he enjoys with his alter ego.


Sara Keating Irish Theatre Magazine (26thth April 2010)


The problem with The Picture of Dorian Gray is that it is seriously over-written, even by Oscar Wilde’s standards. However, the style of the book is a self-conscious gesture of verbosity. When the book was first published in 1890, it attracted notoriety for being “unclean,” “effeminate,” and “contaminating.” Republished in 1891, Wilde was at pains to disguise the homoerotic undertones of the story in as much social decorum as he could pile on, resulting in several extra unnecessary chapters. This is the form of the book that exists in print today, and while The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the best gothic stories ever imagined, it almost drowns in its own excessive style. Basically, it needs a good edit – and this is precisely what Alice Coghlan does in her excellent adaptation of the book for the stage.

Wonderland Productions theatrical interpretation The Picture of Dorian Gray takes place in a cafe rather than a theatre. This is the second time that the company is using the backdrop of a working food venue as staging device; their 2009 production of La Locanderia, which unfolds over a four course meal, was so successful that it is still touring nationwide. Twinning theatre with a secondary social event (in this case afternoon tea) is certainly a good marketing ploy, breaking the formality associated with the theatre, and while in The Picture of Dorian Gray Wonderland do not quite manage to make afternoon tea critical to the staging, the dainty tiered platters of cucumber sandwiches and the mahogany-hued ambience of the James Joyce Tea Rooms certainly evoke an era of civilised Victorian grandeur.

Staged at 4.30 in the afternoon, the production unfolds against the naturally lit backdrop of open windows, where the muted noises of a Grafton Street shopping day might be the “dim roar of London” that our narrator, Basil Hallward alludes to as he sets the scene for the unfolding tale of supernatural horror. Coghlan’s adaptation moves seamlessly between narration and dialogic interchange, the narrated events adding pace at key junctures, as the story moves towards its inevitable uncanny end.

Michael James Ford, an expert in performing Wilde’s prose works (he has adapted and performed many of his stories for the stage), brings a perfect plummy depth to his narration and a pompous passion to Basil’s relationship with the radiant Dorian. Lord Henry is a less salubrious character, and with his striking pale face and bold dark eyebrows, the caped Simon Coury commands our attention in much the way that he hypnotises the decadent Dorian’s, with his self-righteous philosophising and certainty about life. Meanwhile, Michael Winder – his cherubic face further softened by curls – gives us a spoilt weak Dorian, a vessel into which men and women pour their fantasies; a man without his own character; a man indeed without a soul.

Wonderland Productions’ facilitate a fascinating, civilised afternoon at the theatre, and a more than satisfying version of this difficult novel, which would become the defining book of Wilde’s career. For if, as Basil asserts in one of many pithy epithets about art, every painting is “a portrait of the artist not the sitter,” The Picture of Dorian Gray, is perhaps as close as we get to a confessional throughout his rich creative oeuvre. Just four years after the revised edition of the book was published, he was arrested for “gross indecency” and sentenced to prison, where he would later die. Perhaps that is the true horror that haunts The Picture of Dorian Gray: Wilde’s realisation of his own impending doom.


Shaun Dunne, Le Cool (Thursday 22th April 2010)


A three-tiered sandwich tray, a pot of tea and a dip into the dainty, yet dark world of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray is the immersive- and extremely well constructed latest offering from the veritable Wonderland Productions.

The play was notoriously used against Wilde when he was put to trial on charges of sodomy in 1895. Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man who goes about the business of breaking hearts and ruining lives following the projection of his soul onto a portrait of him done by a male admirer. Themes of art, love, sex and vanity are explored throughout Alice Coghlan’s adaptation of this classic text in which the narrative’s anti-hero stays forever young while growing steadily depraved.

The actors play wonderfully with the script and keep their audience’s attention throughout. Catch this classic while you still can.


Lucy White, Metro Herald (Thursday 22th April 2010) ✮✮✮✮


The muse of earnest painter Basil Hallward (Michael James Ford, pictured on the left) and plaything of nefarious Lord Henry (Simon Coury, right), beautiful Dorian (Michael Winder, centre) makes a Faustian pact never to grow old while instead his portrait ages. It’s not long, however, before the trade-off becomes clear – in selling his soul for youth, his likeness grows older and uglier with every sin he commits.

It’s a well-known Gothic horror, and this year’s Dublin: One City, One Book selection, but few actors have played out the opium highs and wretched lows in a cafe during real-time afternoon tea.

Adapted and directed by Alice Coghlan for Wonderland Productions, the three actors move convincingly around the tea rooms, no mean feat, given the unnervingly close proximity to their audience, and also a lack of eerie lighting design. But whether picking out a carnation from a table display or wafting incense under our noses to evoke an opium den, they do so with relish. Elfin Winder is perfectly cast as lord snooty Dorian, while Coury’s jaded rake Lord Henry is the perfect foil to Ford’s tragic Basil.

Also, Alun Smith deserves a Victoria sponge for his subtle sound design, ranging from gentle birdsong during garden scenes to clattering street noise. (Saturday 17th April 2010)


The tea-room was filled with the rich odour of brewing coffee, and when the light spring sun cast it’s gentle rays across the spanning windows the dim roar of Grafton Street was no more than the bourdon note of a distant organ. No, you haven’t fallen into a decadent drawing room circa 1890 but an afternoon of delicious temptation with a production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Wonderland Productions, in association with Dublin One City One Book present afternoon tea with a Wilde twist in the James Joyce Tea Rooms in Bewleys, Grafton Street. Acted and narrated by Lord Henry (Simon Coury), Basil (Michael James Ford) and Dorian (Michael Winder) the play is intimate and thoroughly charming. Shared narration of the text intermingled with the dialogue means that the play loses little of Wilde’s delicious flair for description.

For those who have been living under an illiterate rock all of their lives The Picure of Dorian Gray is the scandalous fiction of a young man, Dorian, who around the turn of the 20th century, arrives in London having inherited his estranged grandfather’s house. His new friend Basil, inspired by Dorian’s beauty paints his portrait, arguably Basil’s best work. On seeing the portrait and under the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian wishes that he could stay young and beautiful forever. (A deal that in this production, either by coincidence or wonderful foresight was ominously struck in symphony with nearby Grafton Street bells.)

If I could get back my youth, I’d do anything in the world except get up early, take exercise or be respectable.

Somehow this wish is granted and the sins of Dorian’s hedonistic life of indulgence, alcohol, drugs and sexual deviancy are borne out on the portrait as the true reflection of his soul while his handsome face remains unmarred by the turn of time.

Witty, sexy and dark, The Picture of Dorian Gray is my all time favourite book as can be evidenced by a snap shot of my book shelf, (yes, I have it in different languages but we all have our indulgences) and this afternoon delight was just wonderful.


Helen Boylan, Sunday Business Post


Wonderland Productions adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic gothic horror fiction doesn’t take itself too seriously. This daytime theatre, set in and around the tables of a buzzing city centre cafe, offers an accessible version of Wilde’s tale to audiences who can enjoy afternoon tea as the drama unfolds.

As we sip tea and nibble from tiered cake stands of pastries, scones and cucumber and ham sandwiches, artist Basil (Michael James Ford) explains to his visiting friend Lord Henry (Simon Coury) about a portrait he has painted of a beautiful youth, Dorian Gray (Michael Winder), with whom the artist is infatuated.

This fine work of art is denoted here by an empty picture frame, requiring the audience to fire up their imagination to see what a fine painting it might be. Basil and Henry agree it is a wonderful portrait – “he looks like he’s made of ivory and rose leaves” – and when Dorian sees the finished work, he is in awe of himself.

But his admiration sours with the realisation that his youthful beauty is ephemeral. “How sad it is,” Dorian despairs. “I shall grow old and horrible and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.”

In order to stay forever young as the picture grows old, he trades his soul. And so begins a story which explores aestheticism, morality and duplicity.

Under Alice Coghlan’s direction, the cast fare ably under such intimate scrutiny from the audience.

As the actors have nowhere to hide, neither does the audience, all of whom sit facing different directions in bright daylight. A minor quibble would be that the show’s running time (100 minutes with no interval) could have been tighter.

But with some amusing performances and Wilde’s many quotable quotes (“Murder is always a mistake. One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner”), this show breathes new life into afternoon tea.


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Reviews: Dubliners

Arminta Wallace, The Irish Times

“I felt that I had been very far away, in some land where the customs were strange – in Persia, I thought…” – The Sisters

I’m standing in the middle of Dublin, just north of the Liffey, at the corner of Parnell Street and Cumberland Street. The place is humming with cars, buses and people. Many – most – of the faces are African or Chinese. It’s already a potent mix of worlds. But as I prepare to cross the road I’m transported to a different world. Flickering all around me, in this other universe, are the sounds of James Joyce’s Dublin, from church bells to Victorian parlour songs. And inside my head are the rhythms and cadences of Joyce’s Dubliners.

The characters – Old Cotter, Ignatius Gallaher, Eveline Hill, Father Flynn and Gabriel Conroy – are speaking to me as if I’d just met them in one of the city’s many hostelries. It’s not so much that they have come out of the book as that I have strayed into it, courtesy of one of Wonderland Productions’ self-guided Dubliners walking tours.

“He pursued his reverie so ardently that he passed his street and had to turn back…” – A Little Cloud

Wandering around 21st-century Dublin, lost in Joyce, is a mildly perilous undertaking. The tour begins at the James Joyce Centre, on North Great George’s Street, where the staff kit you out with an MP3 player, headphones and a series of maps and charts. The player switches itself off regularly to save battery power, but it bookmarks the place, and restarts at the same point, so that isn’t a problem. The maps are crammed with visual information.

Perhaps wandering, Leopold Bloom-style, is a necessary part of the experience. And when you’re listening to beautifully written, beautifully performed stories through headphones, it’s easy to get lost.

“North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free…” – Araby

There are several of these tours to choose from, depending on how much time you have. The route on the half-day tour takes you north from the Joyce centre past Belvedere College and Hardwicke Street, then up to the King’s Inns. Then it’s back along Capel Street and Mary Street to the river and Usher’s Island for the house of The Dead.

You track back via Temple Bar, Duke Street and Nassau Street. It takes about four hours, allowing pauses for coffee, lunch, standing and staring, sitting and dreaming. The commentary presents nuggets of information, tailored to the pace of your perambulation. Layers of history peel away from buildings as you pass.

The upper storey of Penneys on Mary Street fades to the Volta cinema, the scene of Joyce’s brief venture into the movie business. O’Neill’s pub on Suffolk Street becomes Corless’ restaurant. “Clifden oysters, wines from the wood and a first-class French chef.” And here is Joyce having tea with William Butler Yeats on Kildare Street. Yeats is 37, Joyce 20. “I’m sorry,” the younger writer remarks over his shoulder as he leaves, “but you’re too old for me to help you.”

“Da,” says the young man of Slavic extraction sitting next to me in a cafe on Mary Street as he and his friend tuck into two full Irish breakfasts. The sun blazes through the glass. The sunny side of the street. Joyce is meticulous about such things. You could check the forensic accuracy of his descriptive writing, if you were so inclined. Or you could just soak it up with the sunshine.

“Like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past…” – The Dead

The reading of The Dead is, unsurprisingly, the climax of the day. The story that almost didn’t make it into the collection has become a literary superstar.

But the overwhelming impression left by this tour is one of pulsating life. It’s a joyous celebration not just of Joyce but of parts of Dublin that many natives, never mind tourists, rarely see.

Like all good tours, it makes you look at your city with different eyes. Walking back down O’Connell Street to the James Joyce Centre, I pause at Middle Abbey Street while a Luas glides past. And then I do a double take. Cycling along behind the tram on an ancient sit-up-and-beg bike is a little auld lad straight out of Dubliners central casting.

I blink. Did I dream him? Is it some kind of visual Wonderland trick? No: there he is, pedalling merrily across O’Connell Street the wrong way, in the wake of the shiny new tram. Disappearing eastwards into the future. Joyce would love it.

Eithne Shortall, The Sunday Times


Lest anyone forget that the Irish capital belongs to James Joyce, Wonderland Productions has developed an audio performance of Dubliners, the author’s short story collection, that also acts as a city tour. Participants listen to adaptations of the tales on MP3 players (supplied) and follow the accompanying maps around Dublin.

The stories are performed well, with particularly enjoyable contributions from Barry Mc Govern and Shona Weymes, but it is not necessary to hear them on location. It is the additional, site-specific trivia that makes the trip worthwhile. The tour passes the National Library, where Joyce and WB Yeats met for tea in 1902, and wanders down Nassau Street where the author first gazed on Nora Barnacle, his future wife. The sign for Finn’s Hotel, where she worked, is still visible. An accomplished adaptation of The Dead is best enjoyed whilst wandering around the house on Usher’s Island where it is set. The eight hour tour is for a more fanatical Joycean than I, but picking your favourite bits from the half-day version is a treat for any fan. Bring a bike.

Kate O’Connor,

Joyce said of Ulysses, ‘I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book’, however the same could be said of his collection of short stories Dubliners.

A collection of 15 beautifully constructed short stories; Dubliners dips gently into the lives of a host of characters living in Dublin city around the beginning of the twentieth century. Even though Joyce wrote most of his work whilst living outside of Ireland, Dublin is perhaps one of his biggest and most influential characters in his work. Which is why it is a mecca for lovers of Joyce’s work, who come every year to explore the city that inspired one of the world’s greatest writers.

All this has led theatre producer Alice Coughlan [sic] to down her theatre tools and assemble quite a large cast of inspirationally-voiced actors, whom she recorded reading various selections of text from a number of different stories in Dubliners. What results is a tiny little mp3 player, which holds some beautiful recordings of these fabulous stories. However, Wonderland Productions’ Dubliners Walking Experience is not just about the recordings, it involves a map and the city of Dublin also. Slipping on your headphones and heading out onto these historical streets, you are immersed deep into each story.

To really make the experience effective, Coughlan has reworded and restructured some of the work to include more dialogue in each story, so that the characters can tell their stories more than the narratorial voice originally in the story. Two Gallants in particular is very striking, walking down Rutland Square (known to today’s Dubliner as Parnell Square East), we earwig on Lenehan and Corley discussing the generosity Corley has managed to receive from a certain lady friend.

The highlight for me was The Dead – the most striking story in the collection, it has its home in Usher’s Island and also The Gresham. While The Gresham piece wasn’t as poignant as it could have been due to the ridiculous amount of Dublin buses crawling by, the house on Usher’s Island was particularly special. Entering the house, you sit and listen to Lily the Caretaker being literally rushed off her feet and Gabriel making his entrance, peeling off his galoshes. Climbing up the stairs, we enter the drawing room and hear the wonderful music and conversation. We find the dining room is set for dinner and take our place at the table to listen to the dinner conversation. Arriving back downstairs, we gaze up the stairs as The Lass of Aughrim floats through the air – if there was anything that ironically could bring The Dead to life, it was this moment.

Various other stories are mapped out, with stops scattered across the city – the Church on Meath Street, Temple Bar, Ely Place, St. Stephen’s Green – they’re all packed in there in a half day tour that took us near on five hours to complete. There’s a full day tour available also which takes you out to Chapelizod as well as the city centre. The tour was extremely impressive, not just by how well the extracts have been delicately reworked in parts, and carefully recorded, but also by how well they bring the stories to life when listened to on site. It may perhaps be a bit too long for someone who isn’t entirely head over heels in love with Joyce, perhaps a shortened version taking about two hours long would be a more attractive activity, but for anyone who loves Joyce and would like to experience his work being really and truly brought to life, then it’s a must.
Sara Keating, The Sunday Business Post

From the distance of his various homes in Trieste, Zurich, and Paris, James Joyce recreated a map of his home city through his fiction. In Ulysses and Finnegans Wake his tribute to Dublin is an expressionistic one, reimagining the geography of the city’s streets through the subconscious mind. In Dubliners, however, his affection for Dublin is more easily accessible, in a series of short-stories that provide intimate encounters with the city’s inhabitants in the early twentieth century.

Wonderland Productions has married Joyce’s work with its topographical spirit in James Joyce’s Dubliners, an audio-tour that combines geographical detail with dramatised versions of the stories, the tour begins when participants are given a MP3 player and a slim plastic envelope containing maps and instructions. There are a variety of options available for the participant: a two and an half hour mini tour, a half day tour, and a full day tour. The tour can be condensed by taking a bicycle rather than walking and there are suggestions for refreshment stops, some of which can even be integrated into the storytelling, which is of course the focus of this audio-theatrical production.

Adapted and directed by Alice Coghlan, Joyce’s stories are presented as first-person narrations or dialogic scenes. Where audio versions of short stories are often read by a single reader, here the use of different voices helps enormously in creating the intimacy of evoked atmospheres. The Sisters, for example, is narrated by a child, and the authorial voice disappears so that the story can become pure character…

The walking tour, meanwhile, remembers the writer’s school days at Belvedere College, Finn’s Hotel where his future wife Nora Barnacle worked and his aunts’ house on Usher’s Island where the central story of Dubliners, The Dead, is set. A tourist will undoubtedly experience these sites differently from a native, but there are surprises even for those who know Joyce’s city centre haunts well. The nature of an audio tour is that it guides your vision. I have never noticed the gates at Kings Inn, though I lived close by when I was in college. I had never seen the grotto behind St Catherine’s on Meath Street, though my father was christened there.

Dubliners: An Audio Tour is a terrific idea, well executed, and one that might easily be replicated to provide dramatised access to the life and writings of other Irish writers. However, it is difficult to think of a writer whose work would suit the format more than Joyce.

2012 is a monumental year for fans of the iconic Irish writer James Joyce, not to mention the arts world as a whole. There is something about Joyce’s work, specifically the much-loved Dubliners, that lends itself to the stage, and thus there are many in the theatre world who find themselves in a tizzy of excitement with the news that this year his work finally comes out of copyright and is open to interpretation, re-working and of course dramatization. Wonderland’s Alice Coghlan is one such person, and with her company’s audio walking tour of Dublin, has intentions to revive the Dublin in which Joyce’s characters walked, lived, loved and lost in his 1914 collection of short stories, Dubliners.

In the year that Dubliners has been chosen as Dublin City Library’s “One City, One Book”, Wonderland gives you the opportunity to follow the footsteps of Joyce’s eclectic host of characters while listening to their voices and stories acted out by a sizeable cast via mp3 players. Whether you are a Joyce fanatic, someone whose head has been turned by the hype surrounding his work in this significant year, or, perish the thought, feel ill at the sight of Ulysses perched pretentiously on any self-respecting scholar’s coffee table, walking the streets of Joyce’s Dublin has a transporting effect that stays with you long after the Mp3 and giant earphones have been returned.

That’s not to say this is a perfectly devised piece. While one appreciates the value in retracing the steps of the people who populated Dubliners and the Dublin of 1914, there is something mildly disconcerting about being instructed to walk around in circles in some less than savoury areas of the city. Although the juxtaposition of Dublin then and now is undisputedly interesting, there was something about the ginormous earphones and maps that seemed to yell “Rob me, rob me” as we walked Parnell St and Hardwicke street, the locations of The Boarding House. It takes the first couple of stories to abandon any trepidation and lose oneself in the voices and sounds of Dublin 100 years ago, but by the time we had arrived at Henrietta Street for the recitation of A Little Cloud it was easy to do so and enjoy the experience immensely.

The Dubliners walking tour is a wonderfully conceived idea, and although there are some small problems concerning the ease of navigation (both with the map and the mp3 player) there are a handful of moments throughout the course of the adventure which overshadow them. The recreation of the dinner party in The Dead is atmospherically executed – the candlelit dining room table conjuring up images of dancing, quarrels and, of course, the heart-breaking unrequited love that lies at the heart of this story. Another stand out moment was a stop off at Farrington’s in Temple Bar, a pub which features in Counterparts and retains its charm from that time, even if the barman did seem confused and slightly afraid when, as instructed in the programme, we quizzed him on the pub’s literary connections.

This walking tour will bring you to corners of Dublin that do not feature highly on the tourist trail and is all the better for it. As soon as you get into your stride and immerse yourself in the interwoven stories of the Dubliners of long ago, it becomes almost a thrill to walk in the path of these curious characters and, of course, the man who gave them life. I can’t think of a much better way to celebrate this monumental year for James Joyce, or indeed to spend a sunny Saturday in our fair city.”

Dave Madden,

It’s a self guided audiotour; the participant dons a pair of headphone with an attached iPod, and is guided around with the help of an accompanying map. The tour starts at the Dublin Writers Museum on Parnell Square (beside the excellent Chapter One restaurant) and meanders through the city centre to locations featured in Dubliners.

There are two main types of material on the audiotour. For the most part it consists of abridged audio versions of the stories from the book. The voice-acting is good and the concept of walking around the locations while hearing the corresponding stories works well, although unavoidably the length of each story and the time it takes to walk the real-world setting do not always match. Just keep walking and don’t let it bother you, I’d suggest.

The headphones do a good job of insulating the listener from the noise of the 21st century city, creating a strange sensation of not really being in the modern-day city. As someone living in Dublin I found the tour interesting as an insight into the city a century ago; to see which areas are still run down (many of them) and which have changed (a few, not always for the better). Helpfully, as well as stories and directions the audio also provides ‘extras’ – comments on Dublin and Joyce.

Henrietta Street, leading up to King’s Inns on Constitution Hill, and featured in the story A Little Cloud, is one of the most changed. A once well to do area, it’s now bleak and decrepit. From there you’ll be lead down Capel Street, and along the Quays towards James Joyce Bridge and the ‘House of The Dead’, the location for the final story of Dubliners, The Dead. Wonderland have temporarily opened the building up to the public so if you’re a fan of Joyce get down there while you can and enjoy being in the location of one of Joyce’s main stories.


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