|Samuel Beckett, a laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been universally acclaimed for not only introducing new ideas in writing, but also for his deep understanding of the human race. “Molloy” is the first of three masterpieces that constitutes Samuel Beckett’s famous trilogy. Published in 1951, the work turned away from traditional forms, featuring innovative characteristics that reflect modern aspects of society. Based on the novel, students from the Theater Department at Chung-Ang University have recreated it into a 60-minute play called “Molly.” Also a participating act at the 5th Asian Theatre Schools Festival, they proudly presented how Beckett’s work can deliver quite the impression to the audience.
Into the Play
Main Character: Molly or Moran?
To begin with, the original title, "Molloy" is a mysterious herb told from myths. It has been superstitiously believed to hold the absolute power to heal everything. Its female form is “Molly,” while its male form is “Moran.” Molly and Moran appear as one of the main characters in the play. Although their names are in separate forms, they hold the same meaning from a linguistic aspect. This hints to the fact that as the plot progresses, the two are represented as the same figure.
It is true that the play tells the story of Molly and Moran. However, it would not be an exaggeration to describe it as a collection of the essence of Beckett’s various works. It would have been an interesting view point for the audience to recognize which part of the book each scene represents. Back to the main plot, the play starts off with Molly going on a journey to find her mother. After a while, Moran set out on a trip by bicycle with his son, also in search of his mother. Their journey is presented separately, one after another. Molly gets caught by police and treated brutally and as for Moran, he mourns in grief as he loses his son in the hustle. In the end, they meet each other. Face to face, they question their own identity and in despair, cannot tell who is who. The images of Molly, Moran, his son, and their mother are overlapped. The play ends in a flurry of contradiction.
The Theatre of the Absurd
The play shows the typical features from the theatre of the absurd. It is one of the prevalent styles of theatre written primarily by European playwrights after World War II. Their works focused mainly on expressing the idea of existentialism
and what happens when humans lose the meaning or purpose of living. The speech is intentionally written illogically and shows the breakdown of communication. The envisioned society no longer possesses any degree of effective communication, leading to extreme individualism. Through series of disorder, these plays show powerful and vivid views of absurdity and fundamentally question the meaning of life and death. Molly also shares the general theme of the theater of the absurd, reflecting Beckett’s long-term observation of absurdity in our lives.
Flipping through the Production Note
The Stage Setting an Endless Journey
The stage walls are covered with endless lines, representing the journey that Molly and Moran encounter. The lines show no direction, as it simply stretches ahead, only to be stopped by the square frame of the stage. The orderly rectangular frame and the curling lines visually contradict each other, presenting a heightened tension and confusion that develop during the play. On stage, viewers can also find a variety of objects such as a cane, bicycle, pebbles, hats, pots, and so on that effectively symbolize the metaphor associated with the theme that Beckett’s works deal with.
Lighting Effects Controlling the Mood
The play’s lighting effects focus on delivering an impressive visual image of each scene rather than helping the plot flow smoothly. At the beginning, it shows the human body in parts by cleverly using divided slates of light from both sides. During the play, lighting effects dramatize each character’s plight and despair, helping the audience to get immersed into the plot. On top of that, lighting effects are used to control the mood of the play, mostly conveying cold and lonely sensations through the use of pale lights colored in white, blue, and green. Not only that, it visualizes the shape of a full moon, which as a symbol, connects the two main characters.
Actors as Experts in Beckett’s Works
In order to portray the destruction of language, the speech is delivered in a mix of foreign languages. Therefore, the actors had to prepare the lines not only in Korean, but also in English, Chinese, and French. Though it was no doubt extra hard to perform, the actors showed great fluency in their delivery. Also, one of the play’s distinctive features is the scenes where dance is performed to effectively showcase emotions that cannot be spoken. Last but not least, it would not have been possible to perfectly perform the roles without a deep understanding of Beckett’s works. In fact, to thoroughly prepare for each scene, the students studied a lot in groups before the actual preparation period began. Thanks to such students’ passion, the play could best introduce Beckett’s works to the audience.
The play "Molly" was nothing like other plays that attract audiences with interesting plots or appeal in emotion. To many, the form of the theatre of the absurd would be new and still confusing to understand. Even the ending is quite puzzling as there is nothing left but confusion. However, leaving all these matters aside, students from the Theater Department at Chung-Ang University brilliantly showed how absurdity can be expressed through a playwright. They truly deserve another round of applause!
Location: Chung-Ang University Performance Art Center Space1959
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