Bringing The Dead to operatic life

by Gazette Reporter
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AN OPERATIC interpretation of James Joyce’s The Dead is set for its world premiere at the Project Arts Centre, with six performances from December 9 to 12.
For those who are not familiar with the story, it is centred around a married couple, Gretta and Gabriel, who go to a Christmas party at the house of the husband’s elderly aunts, Julia and Kate.
The tale, which was hailed by TS Eliot as “one of greatest short stories ever written”, and “just about the finest short story in the English language” by the New York Times, explores the themes of life, love and death.
This new version was adapted by acclaimed Irish composer Ellen Cranitch and award-winning playwright Tom Swift, and taps into the deep vein of musical references running through the original story.
Speaking to The Gazette, director Jo Mangan said that the show is not overly complex, but is very accessible and enjoyable. She described it as operatic in “a beautiful, almost Sunday afternoon-kind of way”.
While the story itself is quite melancholic, it 03has many humorous moments, and Mangan says that the cast make full use of these to provide some comic relief.
“Julia and Kate’s characters are great fun, so Ruth McGill and Clare Barrett are playing them and they’re great comic actresses. They’re milking every bit of comedy out of it.
“It’s great comedy written by Joyce, and then adapted by Tom Swift, and then by adding in a couple of fantastic actors it really kind of pulls [all the comedy] out.
“I would say Kate and Julia are our main comic relief, but then there’s also a great character – Millie, the maid,” she said.
She said that all of the comedic goings on are leading up to the moment at the end of the night when Gabriel’s wife, Gretta, tells him that she had loved another man before him who died, and infers that she loved that man more than she could ever love him.
“That, for me, is the high point of the whole piece; everything else is sort of working towards that moment. It allows you to look at those two characters from the beginning.
“Gretta is quite separate from a lot of the action, but [in this adaption] she is doing a bit of narrating herself, and we have framed it so it is kind of Gretta’s story all the way through,” said Mangan.
She said this gives their piece a different thrust to other adaptations, and it allows Gretta to step in and out of the action from time to time, which is useful as the cast comprises just four actors.
Tickets are on sale now from the Project Arts Centre Box Office, and online at

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