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Eilin brings Molly Bloom soliloquy ‘home’ to West

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Date Published: {J}

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of the James Joyce’s Ulysses is recognised as one of the most famous female narratives in modern literature, and now it’s coming to a Galway stage courtesy of actress Eilin O’Dea of Big Hand Productions.

Sensuous, compelling and at times hugely funny, this soliloquy is the only time in Joyce’s seminal novel where Molly’s voice is heard. In the piece, which was highly controversial when the novel was published, she ranges over divers topics including life, love, sex and loneliness.

“I don’t think the piece has ever been performed in Galway, says Cork born Eilin who is based in Dublin and who has previously performed the piece for Bloomsday in the James Joyce Centre and Smock Alley Theatre.

Eilin, who trained as an actor in the Samuel Beckett Centre in Trinity and then worked in Paris and London, was living in Paris some years ago when she got a phone call to do some readings for Bloomsday. At the time, she contributed a piece, but, as she was in her early 20s then, she was too young to play Molly Bloom.

However, the piece left an impact on her and she has chosen to join the company of renowned actresses Fionnuala Flanagan and Siobhán McKenna who have previously performed Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

It is controversial, says Eilin of her interpretation, but she feels that her Molly Bloom is not as controversial as the performance by Fionnuala Flanagan although it’s probably more shocking than Siobhán McKenna’s version.

Eilin feels the soliloquy was written about Nora Barnacle and so, in her interpretation, the language is that of the West of Ireland.

“I feel that the rhythm and flow of the piece is definitely West of Ireland,” she explains adding that the director of the piece is from Dublin and many of the phrases in the piece were unfamiliar to him.

Local resonances aside, Ulysses is a grammatical nightmare, so learning the soliloquy was a challenge.

“There’s no punctuation marks, so it took months of work to find the punctuation marks and learn it.”

However, Eilin did have a couple of advantages.

“I’m bad at maths, but I’m blessed with a very good memory for history and English. And there’s a real flow to the piece, one thing really does flow logically onto the other. Joyce was a musician and a singer and this is almost like a piece of music.”

There are all different sort of emotions in the piece, there is comedy and there is tragedy and she works to cover the spectrum. The account by Molly of losing her infant Rudy is particularly poignant, she says.

And, the character of Molly is the key that unlocks the secrets of Joyce’s iconic novel.

“If you read the soliloquy in Ulysses, it gives you a huge understanding of the novel as a whole, because it gives you an insight into the characters that you wouldn’t have had before.

Eilin will perform Molly Bloom in the Town Hall Studio from February 3-6 at 8.30pm nightly. Then she’s off to Cork and Dublin and then there are a few tentative offers from other venues. Booking at 091-569777, or tht.ie.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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