Gulliver’s Travels

 

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin Jan 3-21 7pm (Sat Sun mat 2pm) 9.50-20 (family ticket 44-55) 0818-205205 ctb.ie

It’s more than 400 years since Lemuel Gulliver first set sail (according to his travelogue), yet he still has outrageous new lands to discover. The most bizarre of these is our own: a fantastical place of high-minded ideals and grubby realities. But such is the prescience of Jonathan Swift’s classic that it is unlikely to hit Gulliver with any surprise.

For all its fantastical proportions, Swift’s brilliantly dense satire saw things as they really were: political campaigns waged as crude stunts by small men; lofty giants appalled by globalisation; and a utopian land of Houyhnhnms, whose noble race of horses looked askance on the follies of humankind.

Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels “to vex the world rather than divert it”, but the canny adapter knows that any new version needs to do a bit of both. Without making any assumptions about Jack Black’s new film version, the better bet for faithful inheritance and imaginative representation may be Wonderland Productions, whose director, Alice Coghlan, recently brought Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray to the stage with fidelity and economy. Here she realises the strangely familiar lands of Swift with song, puppetry, dance and multimedia, performed by six actor- musicians.

That’s an encouragingly Swiftian aesthetic – a Brobdingnagian-sized imagination delivered with Lilliputian subtlety.

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