Theatre review: Molly Bloom

Posted: September 27, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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First Published in The Cape Times – September 2010

 Starring:  Jennifer Steyn.  Directed by Nicky Rebelo. Costume and set design by Ruy Filipe.

 at The Baxter until 9 October   ASTRID STARK reviews. The battle of the sexes.

 The tragedy of a woman who has been reduced from ‘flower of the mountain’ to a long suffering wife who seeks earthly pleasures in the arms of a lover is but one of many themes threading its way through this play taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Molly Bloom is a one-woman play adapted from the 18thchapter of Ulysses.  The chapter, often referred to as Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy, originally consists of eight sentences with only two punctuation marks throughout. If it were to be performed uncut it would run for over four hours. Thankfully, the piece has been edited down to about an hour and forty minutes’ ‘stream of consciousness’ monologue. Thankfully, not because the text is dull, but rather because of its density and the wealth of complex issues contained within its pages.     

Jennifer Steyn as Molly Bloom, Photo by Nicky Rebelo

Jennifer Steyn as Molly Bloom, Photo by Nicky Rebelo

The play is set in Dublin and opens with Molly lying in bed next to her husband Leopold who has returned from a day of wine, brothels and late night cafes.  It is the same bed in which she entertains her lover, Blazes Boyle, and her husband knows this.  However, Leopold finds it all amusing that she had tricked him so cleverly and proceeds to fall into a deep sleep or drunken stupor. Molly muses about her life as a married woman, her husband’s infidelities, her unfulfilled singing career, and the many inequalities between men and women.     

Jennifer Steyn has beautifully crafted Molly Bloom’s Irish accent and deftly manages the intense text which schizophrenically flicks between moods of revenge and hatred to exultation and love.  Within Molly rages all the rapture and agony of being a woman.  She wistfully reflects upon her many admirers and compares her husband favourably to her lover before letting loose a stream of angry reflections of Leopold’s inadequacies and betrayals. In one instance Molly reflects upon the beauty of the female form and how, by comparison the male genitalia reminds her of a hatrack.  Then she is off on a tangent reflecting on another possible suitor whose pleasing physical attributes has her pondering on how she will seduce him.  At times she comes across as tempestuous, hoary and spiteful before turning the spotlight on the side of her that is vulnerable, childlike, romantic and hopeful.  Molly is a kaleidoscope of personalities and moods rolled into one less than perfect female form.

When Ulysses was first published it was immediately banned in the United States and Britain and the ban was only lifted in 1950.  The play carries an 18-year age restriction due to its graphic sexual references.  Molly reflects on the joys of the flesh and in particular the pleasure of her thighs. There is a chamber pot scene during which she derives a juvenile pleasure in being loud and gassy while her husband sleeps which is perhaps Molly’s attempt to take her power back.

During Molly’s monologue the sad truths of her marriage to Leopold are revealed.  The couple who once were so desperately in love have degraded their relationship by faithlessness and abuse.  Leopold wants her to pose nude for extra money and when she is pregnant he suggests she could get an extra pound a week as a wet nurse. 

Molly reflects on the strength of women and muses about a world filled with female matriarchs.   The text is quite dark and sad. However, the play ends with a lift as Molly reflects on when Leopold proposed to her 16-years prior.  Molly remembers, “After that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him.”

Nicky Rebelo, Jennifer Steyn’s husband, cautiously directs Steyn through the dense text.  Rebelo is also an actor and he has performed at the Baxter in Steven Berkoff’s West, Chris Charles’s Walking Wounded, Paul Slabolepszy’s Making Like America and David Mamet’s American Buffalo. Steyn, a Fleur du Cap Best Actress winner, last performed at the Baxter in Mike van Graan’s Green Man Flashing, for which she also received a nomination in the same category.

Show starts at 20h15.  Ticket prices range from R70 for the Baxter Monday special offer, which includes a light meal and show, to R130 at weekends.  Booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000, online at or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet countrywide. For discounted block, corporate or school bookings, charities or fundraisers contact Sharon on 021 680 3962, email or Carmen on 021 680 3993, email


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