Dancing In The Wake

The Story Of Lucia Joyce

Dancing in the Wake tells the lively and ultimately tragic story of an extraordinary and talented young woman who grew up in the shadow of her famous father, James Joyce. Bolwell recreates the gaiety and creative fervour of 1920s Paris where Lucia trains to be a dancer at the studio of Isadora and Raymond Duncan. Lucia also aspires to join the famous performer Josephine Baker in her show ‘La Revue Nègre’. In her mid-twenties Lucia is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The play shows her struggle with this illness, supported by her friend and troubled lover, the playwright Samuel Beckett. Lucia’s parents, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, have differing views on the state of their daughter’s health. Jan Bolwell describes Dancing in the Wake as “an exploration of what can happen to the talented child of a very famous parent in struggling for recognition and a sense of personal identity. Was her illness caused by this or did it compound the problem?”

Dancing in the Wake blends drama, dance and music. Says Bolwell: “Because Lucia Joyce was a dancer I wanted to tell her story through stylised movement as well dramatised scenes. The challenge has been to try and integrate the two seamlessly throughout the play.”

Dancing in the Wake has begun its season with strength and finesse, and will continue so with each performance. I highly recommend you see this performance from Jan Bolwell and her collaborative team. Bravo.


Claire O’Neil

Theatreview, 10 Feb 2012


  • Launched: 2012
  • Writer: Jan Bolwell
  • Choreographer: Jan Bolwell
  • Length:
  • Music:
  • Performers:


  • 2012


  • Jan Bolwell (director of the Crows Feet Collective) plays both old and young Lucia
  • Sacha Copland (director and choreographer of Java Dance Company) dances young Lucia
  • John Smythe (actor, writer and theatre critic) plays Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and Carl Jung.

Production team

  • Producer: Faye Jansen
  • Director: Deborah Pope (Awkward Productions; Wellington Circus Trust)
  • Musical Director:
  • Stage Manager:
  • Set:
  • Costumes:
  • Lighting:

Jan Bolwell has written a short, absorbing play tracing the tangled relationships of the novelist [Joyce], his intractable wife, Nora, the increasingly disturbed Lucia, and the kindly but romantically uncommitted Beckett. It is told in a medley of flashbacks so a picture emerges of Lucia’s descent into schizophrenia (diagnosed by Carl Jung no less) and her long slow decline in institutions until she dies in 1982. What enhances and crystallises the play and the period so vividly are the dance sequences. If you want a short outline of the major dancers of the early 20th century, Josephine Baker, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Isadora Duncan ‚ then Sacha Copland provides it with some dramatic, fluid dancing, all the more amazing for being performed in such a confined space.


Laurie Atkinson

Dominion Post, 13th Feb 2012