I had no idea what to expect from the staged reading of ‘Molly Bloom,’ a play inspired by the final chapter of Ulysses by James Joyce. I have never read Ulysses – in fact, I’ve been told not to bother trying. The production was born through the partnership between Ravenous Theatre and Fourth Gorgon Theatre; in their mandate, Ravenous Theatre states that they have “…a focus on unique theatre experiences in a-typical locations.” and, given that, I am not wholly disappointed by what I experienced at The Central on Bloomsday (that’s June 16, a celebration day for James Joyce).
The story was told by Molly Bloom, the wife of Joyce’s protagonist in Ulysses, and was performed in turn by seven female actors. In the hour-long read, the audience were lead through several of Molly’s romantic and deviant experiences, plastered on top of her failing sex life with her husband in the wake of losing their child. The performers gave Molly an often-hilarious voice, with enough charm, Christian prudishness, and folk songs to do the early 20th century Irish proud. Considering the fact that none of the women were themselves from Ireland, they certainly gave their best effort to making a coherent, unified voice for their shared character. They included almost ritualistic moments and expressions – letting their hair down before beginning, staring wistfully when they weren’t speaking, and the occasional yawn – which gave the impression that they were different facets of the same woman. And I will never complain about ending a performance by leading the audience in a rousing song.
Perhaps the biggest weakness for this showcase was the location. Theatre should happen anywhere, and so Ravenous Theatre’s challenge for themselves to put up theatre in unique and experimental locations is applauded, and The Central seems like a great location to watch a show. The quaint stage area was lit by a string of oversized Christmas lights and it was intimate but still felt like a performance venue. However, the seating layout for the space in The Central was unfortunate to say the best, and a significant number of the audience were resorted to rubber-necking for the entire show. Besides that, the typical bar sounds of glasses and dishwashers (not to mention what sounded at times to be another show happening upstairs) created plenty of noise to distract from the reading.
Still, apart from the quirks of the location, ‘Molly Bloom’ was an enjoyable experience. As newly emerging theatre companies, I hope to see more from Ravenous and Fourth Gorgon, and you should too. Expanding the boundaries of our theatrical experience is a noble cause – especially when there’s dirty talk and beer involved.