Monday, April 16, 2012

Dubliners - new audiotour

Farrington's in Temple Bar is one of the many pubs following the recent trend in Dublin of serving craft beer and good food. I spent a pleasant evening there recently drinking porter and reading this year's choice for One City, One Book, James Joyce's Dubliners. Farrington's is named after the protagonist of one of the short stories in the book, Counterparts, which features a pub on the corner of Eustace St, the location of the modern day Farrington's pub. As a matter of authenticity I should have ordered a "g.p." and a caraway seed, but I settled for the more modern Dark Arts Porter.

But I digress. What I'd really like to tell you about is the new Dubliners audiotour by Wonderland Productions. 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.

The supper-room upstairs in the House of The Dead


I won't list all of the locations here - you get the idea. Farrington's is of course included, and if you're so inclined I'd suggest having a glass or two and enjoying the place. The map of the tour also suggests afternoon tea in the Gresham, the final location of the tour, and while that's not my own 'cup of tea' it might well be a good way to end the tour.

I have to admit to having temporarily lost momentum when I first started reading Dubliners, but the audiotour - particularly the superb Counterparts - got me interested once again. The audioguide is a quality piece of work, and a real addition to the city's Joycean scene. Both as a way to see Dublin with fresh eyes and as an enjoyable recounting of the stories from Dubliners, this is a winner.

There are two versions of the tour, one taking about 3-4 hours and the other taking about 7 hours. The shorter version costs €12 while the full day epic costs €19. Overall I'd consider those prices reasonable given the quality of the material and the time the tour will take. Full details are available on Wonderland Theatre's website.

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