Thoroughly Modern Molly
Bloomsday is almost upon us, and with it a wealth of choice when it comes all things Joyce. One production well worth checking out is Tara Breathnach’s “Molly,” currently running at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, now returned to its original location on Grafton Street. But be warned, Breathnach’s “Molly” may not sit well with Joycean purists who’ve already decided Molly’s character. However, if you’re willing to engage with an alternative exploration, then “Molly” could prove to be an enchanting and pleasant surprise, in Tara Breathnach’s fascinating portrayal of a thoroughly modern “Molly.”
Built around Molly Bloom’s iconic monologue at the close of Ulysses, where Molly reflects on her life, her lover Blazes Boylan, and her husband Leopold Bloom, Breathnach’s “Molly” is a far less torrid affair and much more tempered. For under Breathnach’s beautifully rendered performance, Molly is not a Molly of the body, but a Molly of the mind. A Molly who contemplates her breasts, concealed behind her hands, but never caresses then. A shyer, more sophisticated Molly, who likes to talk of sex, likes to think of sex, likes the idea of sex, even if it never fully translates to her body.
A good girl playing at being bad, Molly’s sense of inherent purity is reflected in set and costumes, embodying a sanitised, cold cleanliness with sheets and nightgown all crisp and clean, more in keeping with Louise May Alcott or Jane Austen than the fleshy, spunk stained sheets of Joyce’s heroine. For Breathnach’s Molly doesn’t so much seduce as reflect, sounding, as she does, like an indignant and exasperated, long suffering schoolteacher swamped by childish demands she constantly has to deal with. Reimagined in this fashion, Breathnach evokes something of the identifiable spirit of repression lived through by many women in Catholic Ireland in the twentieth century. Never more evident than in Breathnach’s dreamy ‘yes,’ which displaces the orgasmic for the drowsy. The ultimate sexual fantasy being found in sleep rather than the body.
In many ways, Breathnach’s “Molly” is a Molly for our time; a highly sexualised era, fascinated with sex, but uncomfortable with how to negotiate it at the same time. Something Breathnach’s Molly wonderfully encapsulates. If purists are likely to lament the absence of flesh, many will identify with Breathnach’s reimagined, more cerebral and thought provoking Molly. One suspects Joyce would have approved of Breathnach’s challenge to literary certainty.
“Molly” adapted and performed by Tara Breathnach, based on James Joyces Ulysses, runs at Bewleys Cafe Theatre until June16th
For more information, visit Bewleys Cafe Theatre