MARILYN MONROE and Molly Bloom will be celebrated in two new, one-woman, shows, at the Galway Theatre Festival. Galway actor Tara Breathnach’s Molly is a staging of Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy from Ulysses, while Marilyn Monroe Airlines: Always Late and Unreliable! features writer/performer Leonor Bethencourt in the comic persona of Marilyn-worshipping air hostess Zocorro.
Zocorro is the sole crew member of an accident-prone budget airline, one who proudly perpetuates the spirit of Marilyn Monroe. Simmering with raw emotions, this is a comedy about flying and reaching for the stars. How can Zocorro, masked Spanish ingénue, sustain the teasing sensuality demanded by the aviation business? Marilyn has the answer...
“Zocorro is like a female Zorro, she wears a mask like his,” Bethencourt tells me. “She’s from a small village in Spain and finds herself in different situations. In my previous show, Zocorro - Rose of Tralee, she infiltrated that contest by pretending to have Irish roots and this show is a different adventure in which she is committed to perpetuating the memory of Monroe on a budget airline.”
Bethencourt herself is Hispano-Irish, with her mother hailing from Strabane and her father from Madrid where she grew up. She expands on the character of Zocorro: “As a child, Zocorro took an overdose of iron tablets and was taken to hospital. Doctors were all around her, and she realised then how to be the centre of attention which is a big factor with her. Being an air hostess everyone has to listen to her so she enjoys that attention and also the safety and comfort of the passengers depends on her.
"She relates different adventures that happened with Marilyn Monroe Airlines– it has a lot of security issues, there is a good chance at any time that things will go wrong. The nervousness passengers might feel on the flight is like how Marilyn Monroe was unable to leave her trailer during film shoots because of stage fright.”
Marilyn Monroe Airlines: Always Late and Unreliable! runs at Cava Bodega on Thursday April 20 and Friday 21 at 1pm and 3pm. Ticket price includes a serving of tapas.
Tara Breathnach’s Molly vividly incarnates Molly Bloom, who was closely based on James Joyce’s Galway wife Nora Barnacle. In the middle of the night, Molly lies awake, plagued by insomnia, wind, and her husband’s snoring. A caustic wit is matched with searing honesty as she muses on life. Her observations strike a chord with contemporary audiences as her unashamed sexuality is startlingly modern. This vibrant portrayal reveals a real woman, earthy, witty, vulnerable, and sensual.
“People think of Molly as this larger than life character,” Breathnach observes. “She does have that, she is hilarious and witty, but she is also vulnerable. When you pare away the hyperbole, she comes out with some real strong home truths. This was written in the early 1900s and she is a feminist before her time. She is not weighed down by Victorian or Edwardian moral codes and she is not oppressed in herself. Something that resonates strongly with contemporary audiences is that she’s a woman speaking and standing up for her rights and her wishes as a woman.”
Molly is directed by Petal Pilley who worked closely with Breathnach on adapting the soliloquy. “We had to edit Joyce’s words to create a strong narrative arc,” Breathnach explains. “The full monologue, as written, would take nearly five hours to do. So to make it work as a piece of theatre we had to pull out certain themes and threads that are really strong, then shape the text around them so it works as an arc over the course of an hour. We wanted to portray a real woman on stage who engages with the audience.”
Breathnach outlines the ‘themes and threads’ highlighted in the show; “The relationship with Bloom is a huge thing and is by turns comic and tragic-comic. There are also themes of loneliness and the ageing process which resonates in today’s society. Molly is a prima donna but her career isn’t going too well. She has a 15-year-old daughter, Milly, who is in the full flower of youth which heightens Molly’s sense that her own looks are fading. All of that resonates today as we are such an image conscious society and so harshly judgmental of women.”
Molly runs in Nun’s Island Arts Centre. Performances are on Friday April 21 at 3pm and Saturday 22 at 1pm and 9pm. The play is not suitable for under 16s.