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Film: Horrible Creature by Áine Stapleton at Tipperary Dance Platform

9 Oct 2020, 7:30 pm - 8:38 pm (Past)

Tipperary Excel Arts Centre

An experimental dance film by Áine Stapleton investigating the life of Lucia Joyce, daughter of Irish writer James Joyce

‘Visceral, sensory, vicarious, confusing, disturbing … See it!’ – James Joyce Gazette

In 1915, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle travelled with their young children Giorgio and Lucia to Switzerland to escape the turmoil of World War I. Lucia later trained as a dancer and performed throughout Europe. Her career ended in the early 1930s, and she was forced into psychiatric care. Horrible Creature is filmed at locations in Switzerland where she spent time, including her primary school and psychiatric hosptial. Here, Lucia’s own writing, interpreted by a cast of international dance artists, conjures her world between 1915 and 1950.

Lucia Joyce was a talented dancer, writer, and musician. She trained as a professional dancer with avant-garde choreographers and toured throughout Europe Les Six de Rythme et Couleur. She was incarcerated by her brother Giorgio in the early 1930s, and left in psychiatric care for approximately 47 years. ‘Horrible Creature’ purposely avoids the clichés which are often associated with her story. It is written from Lucia’s own words and expressed through the art form which was her passion.

Lucia’s story is a difficult but fascinating one to tell, as so many of her letters – including letters of communication between her and her father – were destroyed by her nephew, following her death.

‘Horrible Creature’ brings the body to the forefront and follows Lucia’s timeline between 1915 and 1950. It meets Lucia during her earlier formative years and examines her education, dissension between her parents, childhood friendships, romantic relationships, her professional dance training, and ill-treatment suffered while in psychiatric care. It also looks at how memories of traumatic experiences can become clouded, repressed, and stored away in the body, but ultimately these subconscious and unconscious energies find expression through our feelings, dreams, and actions.

A choreographic score which is based on Lucia’s writings and doctors’ notes, guides the dancers’ movements throughout the film. A choreographic score is a detailed language score, that is interpreted by performers through movements and vocalisations. For example, the following score was filmed inside the church at the Madonna Del Sasso monastery – ‘She goes to the garden where she remains inaccessible. The garden is rather sad, but there are some beautiful colours and stained glass inside. She sits in the green like flowers on a grave, and is in sympathy with the present. The light here is wonderful so she can sing at last, and her bird song is a little monotonous. Her song is a reminder of a lifeless place.’

Price: € 5
Booking is mandatory to comply with public Health guidelines

Ratings info: 16+, references to violence

Director: Áine Stapleton
Director of Photography: Will Humphris
Producer: Áine Stapleton
Cast: Michelle Boulé, Céline Larrère, Sarah Ryan
Choreography: Scored by Áine Stapleton, adapted and formed in collaboration with the performers.

Funded by The Arts Council and The Embassy of Ireland Switzerland. Supported by the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect Scheme managed by Arts & Disability Ireland, Dance Ireland, and The James Joyce Centre Dublin. Developed at FRINGE LAB with the support Dublin Fringe Festival. Special thanks to The Ticino Film Commission, Swiss Archive of the Performing Arts, The James Joyce Foundation Zurich, Zoe at MY Management UK.


Áine Stapleton
Artists with disabilities
Horrible Creatre