MOLLY BLOOM’S soliloquy, which forms the concluding chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses, is one of the most famous passages in world literature.
Sensuous, compelling, and at times hugely funny, in it we hear Molly bare her soul on life, love, sex, and loneliness. Now, for the first time, Galway theatre-goers will have a chance to see the soliloquy performed on stage when actress Eilin O’Dea brings her acclaimed interpretation of the piece to the Town Hall studio next week.
O’Dea’s association with the role goes all the way back to 1995, and Paris, which is where she first did it before an audience.
“I was living in Paris at the time and doing a play with an English-speaking company when I got a phone call around Bloomsday to do some extracts from Molly Bloom,” she recalls. “So I did that in a pub theatre there, and I continued to perform extracts for the next few years at Bloomsday events.
“At the time I was too young to do the whole soliloquy though I had the desire to do it. Then one day I was talking to Liam Carney and Patrick J Byrnes [her directors] and telling them about it and we decided to go ahead and do it; that’s how it came about, I went off and spent months learning the lines and here we are.”
To perform the whole monologue would require some three hours of stage time so how much of the piece has O’Dea opted to do?
“I do most of the second half of the monologue so it’s about 90 minutes, though funnily enough I have learned the whole thing because originally I intended to perform the first half of it,” she says. “The real hard work at the beginning was finding the thoughts and the pauses and the punctuations and where does a sentence start and end. But it does flow very well, Joyce was a singer himself and it’s like a piece of music, one thought runs really naturally into the next and the breaks become really clear once you get a feel for the piece.”
The erotic and psychological frankness of Molly’s soliloquy was considered indecent by early readers, and O’Dea finds the piece still retains some of that ‘shock value’.
“It still does I think,” she says. “Of course, a lot of people are familiar with the material before they come along to the show and know I’m not going to be talking about baking and what have you! But it can still be somewhat shocking and that’s part of its challenge and beauty that it can have that effect.”
Previous public performances or readings of Molly’s soliloquy have tended to give her a Dublin voice but interestingly O’Dea goes for a west of Ireland accent.
“I firmly believe her language isn’t Dublinese,” she declares. “Some of the slang words in the piece are very rural and west of Ireland. I think Molly’s soliloquy was very much based on Nora Barnacle.
“When I started rehearsing it I just naturally adopted a Galway accent because that seems to fit the piece very well and that wouldn’t have been a calculated thing on my part because I’m not from Galway myself, I’m from Cork. The rhythm of the piece dictates that not me.”
Molly’s soliloquy has rarely been performed onstage previously and this is the first time it has been done in Nora Barnacle’s home city. It’s at the Town Hall studio from Wednesday February 3 to Saturday 6 at 8.30pm nightly.
Tickets are €15/12 and are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.