All change at the Empire Palace

U 6.184-7: Hoardings: Eugene Stratton. Mrs Bandmann Palmer. Could I go and see Leah tonight, I wonder. [...] Or the Lily of Killarney? Elster Grimes Opera Company. Big powerful change. Wet bright bills for next week. Fun on the Bristol. Martin Cunningham could work a pass for the Gaiety.

Weldon Thornton (Allusions in Ulysses) notes that these artistes and shows were performing in Dublin in 1904. Newspaper advertisements such as the following promoted the events:

Public amusements. Gaiety Theatre. Mrs. Bandmann-Palmer, Supported by her Specially Selected London Company. This Evening (Thursday), at 8, LEAH. To-Morrow (Friday) – Mary Queen of Scots.… Queen’s Royal Theatre… To-night. At 8. To-night. Elster-Grime Grand Opera Co., in THE LILY OF KILLARNEY… Empire Palace Theatre… To-night… Another Big Powerful Change. GREAT MARIE KENDAL… Theatre Royal… Eugene Stratton, the World-Renowned Comedian… ‘FUN ON THE BRISTOL’.

Irish Times (16 June, p. 4)

Joyce’s insertion of ‘Big Powerful Change’ can be seen to derive directly from these advertisements. Its meaning is somewhat obscure, but everything falls into place when we take a longer look at theatrical publicity material over the years. Two years earlier, in 1902, the Empire Palace was offering:

Two Houses Nightly. First at 7…Second at 9. Another Brilliant and Powerful Change. MISS CARRIE LAWRIE’S Marvellous Troop of Juveniles.

Irish Times (24 February, p. 4)

More significantly, way back in 1886, Dan Lowrey’s Star Variety Palace in Dublin promised:

Another Overwhelming Success. Hundreds turned away. Crowded Houses. Powerful Change of Company this Week. A Most Delightful Entertainment. CHEEVERS AND KENNEDY.

Irish Times (9 March, p. 4)

And from this is can be seen that ‘Big Powerful Change’ is the theatre’s way of expressing the excitement it wishes to engender at the impressive change of attraction on the bill this week – just as exciting as last week’s, so don’t miss it!

John Simpson

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