Tibby and I saw Molly Bloom at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town on 4th October 2010. It was an outstanding one woman show performed by Jennifer Steyn.
This play is an extract from the final chapter of Ulysses by James Joyce. The action takes place in the early hours of 17th June 1904 in the bedroom of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Dublin. Leopold (‘Poldy’) arrives home very late, kisses his wife’s bottom, requests breakfast in bed and lies asleep in the bed throughout the play. Thirty four year old Molly wakes and muses about her life, marriage, affair, her other sexual experiences, her husband and the possibility that he has been unfaithful and also about her 15 year old daughter who has left home to study and her son who died aged 11 days. For 100 minutes and with 4,391 words she expresses her thoughts, memories, regrets, worries and aspirations. She was born in Gibraltar of an Irish major and a Gibraltarian mother of Spanish Jewish descent. So part of her life was more exotic than the present day reality in Dublin after sixteen years of marriage. There is no solution or climax but rather a consideration of the many issues that affect her life. Her last words in the play are her remembering when she agreed to marry Poldy: “…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. ”
Jennifer Steyn is outstanding in the role of Molly. It is an extraordinary feat to remember this long soliloquy and to then show anger, remorse, fear, sadness and joy without interaction with anyone else is true talent. Her Irish accent sounded good to me and she was completely believable in the part. Given the almost complete lack of punctuation it was not always easy to follow every line but Steyn did well to hold our attention. To fart and urinate into a chamber pot on cue on stage is impressive acting although I could have done without those actions. This was theatre at its best.