A review of Judith Mok’s Molly Says No! from Lucy Healy-Kelly
‘I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls’ opens Molly Says No at the New York Public Library of Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center. It is a lush performance, but our Molly trails off abruptly, declaring “I swear if I have to sing that bloody thing one more time I’ll scream!” This irreverence puts us on familiar territory, with a character who has become famed and beloved for her gutsy, no holds barred soliloquy in the final chapter of Joyce’s Ulysses.
In this hour-long dramatic recital, Mok gives a new voice to Molly Bloom – the woman who, until 2001, is best remembered for voicing the longest “sentence” in English literature. Despite the fact that Joyce devotes this unprecedented literary feat solely to the thoughts of this one character, what we learn of Molly is of course the author’s voice, and Molly is the Penelope to our real protagonist. In Molly Says No, Mok is a flesh and blood Molly, embodied through an engaging and well-paced hour of music and monologue.
These themes are well illustrated by the chosen songs, and it is when singing that Mok really comes into her own. Mok is an artist with many talents (more information about her here, and a podcast interview is coming soon!) It is an easy transition to imagine her formidable soprano as Molly’s. A feisty rendition of Bizet’s Habanera seems particularly appropriate for this daughter of Spain, an independent woman drawn by the romance of the Gitano gypsies. She is accompanied throughout on piano by Dearbhla Collins and the pair establish an entertaining rapport. As Molly herself drifts from Spain to Ireland, it was however Mok’s a capella version of She Moved Through The Fair that received an awe-struck response from the audience. In a Spanish piece redolent of Portugese Fado (again performed a capella), she movingly laments the death of her infant son Rudy and we see a softer, more vulnerable Molly.