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Celebrate 'Bloomsday' with this one-off K'Rd cabaret

Jun 9, 2016 Theatre

One of the 20th century’s most notorious works is being celebrated by a cast of singers, actors and dominatrices in the fitting surrounds of a K’ Rd tavern.

By Dean Parker.

Its arrival in 1967 caused an outcry. In Australia, it had been banned. In New Zealand, it was first screened to two test audiences, one made up of church people — all men — and the other of married couples.

The church group recommended an R18 restriction. The second agreed, but added a rider: men and women would have to be separated. The Film Censor went with the segregation.

In smaller theatres this meant a rope was put down the middle of the cinema. In larger theatres the aisle separated men from women, or women sat upstairs with the men below.

In Auckland, two adjacent Queen St cinemas were used: the Regent was for “Women Audiences Only”, the St James, “Men Audiences Only”.

In Wellington, two male students disguised as nuns were removed from a Women Audiences Only showing.

In Wellington, two male university students disguised as nuns were removed from a Women Audiences Only showing.

In men-only sessions, when the traditional God Save the Queen opener commenced with newsreel footage of the monarch, it became common for wags to shout out, “What’s she doing here?”

It was the movie version of James Joyce’s classic, comic, modernist novel, Ulysses.

Ulysses is the story of melancholic Leopold Bloom, Dublin Jew. It is set in a single day, June 16, 1904.

On this day, Bloom consumes a breakfast of fried kidneys, steps out on to the streets of Dublin, endures endless humiliations — but also friendship — and returns home in the early hours of next morning to his faithless wife, Molly.

When it first appeared, it was described as “a heap of dung, crawling with worms, photographed by a cinema apparatus through a microscope… All the secret sewers of vice are canalised in its flood of unimaginable thoughts, images and pornographic words.”

Spurred along by such publicity, it became one of the most notorious banned novels of the 20th century. These days, a first edition signed by the author will set you back a cool US$150,000.

Joyce’s masterpiece is celebrated globally each June 16 — “Bloomsday” — with readings and re-enactments. And one of the most famous of these celebrations is Auckland’s Jews Brothers’ Bloomsday.

This year’s lineup includes Lucy Lawless, Michael Hurst, Linn Lorkin, the Jews Brothers Band, mezzo sopranos, tenors, transvestite dominatrices — the works, in fact.

It’s a lovely madness, fittingly pulled off amidst massage parlours and sex workers on Karangahape Rd.

“It’s not the Ku’damm, or the Reeperbahn, or the port of Amsterdam,” shouts chanteuse Linn Lorkin during the show. “It’s Karangahape-dam!”

Jews Brothers’ Bloomsday, the only Hiberno-Hebrew Bloomsday in the known world. June 16, 7.30pm, Thirsty Dog Tavern, 469 Karangahape Rd.


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