James Joyce House, Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival
Sept 30-Oct 16
My review of Selina Cartmel’s The Lulu House coming up just as soon as my hair defines me like the ornament on the hood of a car ...
Selina Carmel stormed the Irish Times Theatre Awards in February with Robin Robertson’s new translation of Medea, with her picking up the night’s Best Director trophy. Now considered one of the industry’s greatest assets (she’s received Project Awards funding each round this year) she takes to the Theatre Festival with The Lulu House – a multi-art form rumination of silent movie star and cultural rebel Louise 'Lulu' Brooks in James Joyce House.
It’s hard to picture anyone better suited than cabaret siren Camille O’Sullivan, unflinching and pitch perfect, as Lulu. Her movements play and dart with the urgency of a silent movie figurine, and vocally she effortlessly finds and plucks the key of Conor Linehan’s majestic arrangements. She’s accompanied by Lorcan Cranitch playing an obsessive who chases the actress through the house in recreation of Pabst’s Pandora’s Box.
The Victorian interiors of James Joyce House are furnished to create a participatory space that is part museum, part movie scene recreation. Projectors throw footage of Brooks’ work onto window shutters and dressing table mirrors. The contents of each room in their specificity invite us to collect clues.
Cartmel creates an environment where scenes and images unfold like cinematic shots. She’s somehow managed to take the boundless perceptivity and reach of a movie camera into the theatre space and has given it to the audience. As Roger Ebert put it in his review of Pandora’s Box:
“Louise Brooks regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her”
The Lulu House is sheer sensory delight (and an enticing prelude to Cartmel’s The Making of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore in December). In the end we are left with the tattered image of the Brooks behind the sex symbol which society has created for her. She walks away across the river and disappears into the city, another broken soul among many.
What did everybody else think?