Talking statues: Gabriel Byrne and Brenda Fricker bring Dublin landmarks to life

A slew of famous voices are bringing 10 of Dublin’s best-known monuments alive

Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson are among the voices helping bring some of Dublin's most famous monuments to life

 

James Joyce is sometimes mistaken for Charlie Chaplin. Sometimes he’s mistaken for a spray-painted mime artist. Passers-by stop and wait for him to climb down from his plinth on North Earl Street in Dublin. “He’s going to have to move sometime – go to the toilet or something,” they say about our literary legend.

How do I know this? Joyce told me. No kidding.

And Joyce isn’t the only statue in Dublin that has found his voice. In fact, if you go down to North Earl Street, O’Connell Street, Merrion Square or the National Gallery (among others) from today onwards, you are in for a big surprise. Joyce and nine of Dublin’s other best-known statues will speak to you.

It is part of an experience created by non-profit arts organisation Sing London and supported by Fáilte Ireland. The aim is to bring to life the stories of 10 of Dublin’s statues through a swipe of your smartphone.

Actor Andrew Scott, left, who performs the script written by writer John Banville, imaging what Oscar Wilde might say to passersby. Photograph: Fáilte Ireland
Actor Andrew Scott, left, who performs the script written by writer John Banville, imaging what Oscar Wilde might say to passersby. Photograph: Fáilte Ireland

Authors such as John Banville (Oscar Wilde), Arthur Matthews (George Bernard Shaw) and Rachel Kilfeather (Meeting Place) wrote scripts for each statue. These are spoken by well-known figures including Brendan Gleeson (Wolfe Tone), Brendan O’Carroll (James Connolly) and Stephen Rea (Jim Larkin).

Swipe your phone in front of a plaque close to the statues and you’ll hear their stories.

It wasn’t James Joyce’s voice that spoke to me at his statue, but that of Gabriel Byrne and he was speaking words written by Roddy Doyle

On O’Connell Street, Oscar-nominated actor Ruth Negga gives the winged woman Fidelity her voice. Fidelity and her sisters sit below the dominant figure of Daniel O’Connell “all pomp on his pedestal, above it all, who most days is crowned with a feral gull that shits with sweet abandon where it will”. Paula Meehan’s tone is unmistakable.

A few steps away in the GPO, young warriors are beseeched to look away from the blood pooling at the feet of a hero and to shake a fist at the “accursed” raven at his shoulder. The hero? Cúchulainn. He is brought back to life by Love Hate’s Fran, aka Peter Coonan. Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer penned that script full of fighting talk.

The Death of Cúchulainn statue in the GPO. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
The Death of Cúchulainn statue in the GPO. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Pause before crossing the Ha’Penny Bridge to hear Brenda Fricker give voice to the “Hags with the Bags”, Jackie McKenna’s Meeting Place sculpture on Lower Liffey Street. Statue Eileen will tell you to fire ahead if you want to sit beside her and her friend Maura “and take a selfie – I know they’re all the rage now”. She’ll tell you, for the love of God, not to put your bag down though, because don’t you remember what happened to their bags on the eve of their unveiling? She’ll tell you that story too, before going to back to discussing repealing the Eighth Ammendment and the Global Gathering.

Daniel O’Connell statue, O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Daniel O’Connell statue, O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Dublin’s Talking Statues was oficially launched on Thursday and the initiative has been replicated in cities across the world. Past projects of Sing London include London’s Street Piano Project, which saw the installation of 30 pianos in public spaces across the city.

For more information see talkingstatuesdublin.ie and visitdublin.ie

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