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Mr Joyce is Leaving Paris, my show number two

Where from…? I didn’t know he’d been away. Ohh… yes he’d been lurking around in a basement in Soho, then – typically – accepted an offer he couldn’t refuse back home in Dublin, only to be arrested in mid-speech and hauled before the beak and – silenced. But who, in God’s name, could ever silence James Joyce, the great artificer?

He bounced back, of course, after international haggling (not pretty – see Are You Going to do That Little Jump? Vol. 2).

Mr Joyce is Leaving Paris triumphed (naturally). It is a superlatively brilliant piece of writing. You watch in astonishment as – not the shadow, not the ghost – but the fire-spitting, alcohol outgassing, unmatchable master of language James Joyce pads about his cage-of-a-room in Paris right there in front of you; a reincarnated miracle.

You-all know that when you offer a venue a property… doesn’t matter if it’s a room in the back of a pub or the Albert Hall… one or two key people will have the power to give the script a yes or a no.

It didn’t matter too much in the case of Mr Joyce is Leaving Paris, because it came with an enviable track record. Born in a basement in Soho it was arrested in Dublin before selling out at the Eblana Theatre.

However, at the King’s Head pub Theatre Islington, it was Joan Crawford who did all the minute-by-minute negotiating and handling with Dan kind of – hovering.

For some time, I wondered just what was Dan’s interest, his focus.

It was Joan (pre-married name Corry) who had been to university, read authors, knew deals and was always there to be consulted.

I could see that Dan related to the kitchen. The logistics of preparing grub on the middle floor and getting it hot to the customers lounging round the long (for a while candle-lit) tables in the auditorium, occupied him earnestly.

Working with these guys was new to me, so as long as someone was around who made sense was fine with me.

I cover the primitive working conditions in my book (there was no back-stage loo) but… startling… you will have noticed the ace critics who were, nonetheless, attracted to this hovel… Not only that, look at the actor luminaries who signed up. Jim Norton, later to win a Tony. Tony Doyle, who became the actor to watch (died young at the height of his promise – very sad).

The King’s Head became the avant-garde venue par excellence. Somewhat like the arty Frenchies gorged themselves on 24/7 (or so some traveller told me).

Something Dan did like was the packed houses and the queues at the box office, I could see that.

Once I’d, finally, extricated myself from the complexities involved in working at the King’s Head pub Theatre Islington (some fifteen years later) I was told that – in the middle of ever-recurring financial crises, Dan had – on two occasions – revived Mr Joyce – but it didn’t fly.

Perhaps it could only work with Robert Bernal as Joyce?

We shot a film of the King’s Head production of Mr Joyce. You can catch it on my YouTube channel. It’s not perfect, but considering that the action was photographed in two days…

A certain mystery surrounded the author, Tom Gallacher. I will have to write about him, but will leave his unusual persona unexamined, for now.