Friday, June 17, 2016

James Joyce, Sigmund Freud: a Sistine Chapel encounter

It's interesting when you go to the theatre and when you're walking up the street on your way home, you talk about what you've read by James Joyce, you reminisce about your visit to the Sistine Chapel, you share what you know about the progress of the development of Artificial Intelligence, you tell a corny Freud joke — all subjects directly inspired by the play you've just seen.

The play was the world premiere of Unconscious at the Sistine Chapel, produced and performed by the 2b theatre, part of Eastern Front Theatre's Stages Festival.

The play was held in the theatre-like space in our brilliant library which gives me a chance to show it to you in case you haven't seen it:

The play is imaginative and original. It recreates the Sistine Chapel with the use of projectors and beams the unmistakable Michelangelo masterpieces on to the ceiling and walls of the stage area.

[It] tells a story about buried urges, artificial intelligence, and an unlikely encounter between Minna Bernays and Nora Barnacle, accompanied by their respective partners: Sigmund Freud and James Joyce. A parallel contemporary story features a young academic and a brilliant entrepreneur who clash over how to fill in gaps in the historical record, what makes history come alive, and who should be able to tell these stories.

Funny, smart, and sexy, the play imagines a collision between two of the great revolutionary thinkers of the modern period, and introduces us to the women who inspired them, challenged them, and were ultimately eclipsed by them.

You can see why our conversation on the way home took the turns it did.

When we visited the real Sistine Chapel, we did so in the company of several hundred other people. We all remember the stentorian tones of the security fellow who stood up on the altar and bellowed SILENZIO! every few minutes. It didn't work and the cacophony in there was not surprising, with all of us packed in like sardines. As well as calling for quiet, he was warning "No photos! No videos!" which we dutifully obeyed although we were the only ones. Most people around us were clicking and whirring as though the man was talking to everyone else but not to them. It's quite rude when you think about it.

I've been reading for years that the vast numbers who visit the chapel can't help but have a negative effect on the art. There are often more than 20,000 visitors in a single day and art experts say that the breath, sweat, dust and pollution brought in by such crowds are doing permanent damage. It seems hard to know what the solution is to this problem.

Everyone would like to see the chapel looking like this:

And this:

For most people though, it's like this:

Meanwhile, back in Halifax, Unconscious at the Sistine Chapel runs until June 26 and if you're anywhere near, I definitely recommend it.

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