Molly Bloom

By Jon Way

Rainbow Rating: 3 stars

It's not the sort of thing that has immediate pulling power. I mean a musical adaptation of only a small part of James Joyce's 'Ulysses', sung by a woman lying on a grand piano. Indeed, the audience was pitifully small on the night I saw the show. This is a shame as people are missing out on an extraordinary evening, full of passion and power.

The show is written by husband and wife team Mario Borciani and Anna Zappar oli, and it is Anna herself who plays the eponymous Molly Bloom, supported by piano, drums, cello and clarinet.

The monologue itself is a sharp, intense piece dealing with Molly's feelings towards her lovers and herself; deliberately filthy in parts, but suffused with a lingering sadness, as though, despite her many, many partners, Molly has never truly found contentment. The complex pattern of now and then, memory and comment, lust and resentment, paints a deep and vivid picture of a woman past her prime, but determined not to let go of the past.

Anna Zapparoli's performance is stunning -- at times showing such world-weariness, and then flicking lightly back to younger times in the past, as another memory surfaces. From her lazy drawl to the full force of her excellent singing voice, her range is superb. The ease with which she handles the transitions of mood and sentiment is admirable, and her sheer stage presence is to be envied.

The music is serviceable -- not exactly mould breaking, but perfectly OK. The only problem was that when all the instruments were playing, particularly the drums, they did tend to drown out Anna's singing, especially when she's singing the fast and furious patter that makes up some of these songs.

A fine attribute of this production is the lighting, which changes cleverly to suit Molly's moods, sometimes stark and harsh, and at others gentle and hazy, appropriately conveying the message of days gone by.

Overall, I rate this as a fine production, with much love and care put into it, that deserves much wider exposure than it's currently receiving.

According to the press release, James Joyce's grandson is dead set against this production, claiming that setting the text to music turns it into a circus act. I disagree with this assessment. The material is obviously played with great care and fondness for the original text, and it is certainly much more accessible to the audience to have it performed.

So -- go and see it yourself, and make up your own mind.

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