Thirsty Dog Tavern, Corner Howe St & Karangahape Rd, Auckland

16/06/2012 - 16/06/2012

Production Details


June 16 is “Bloomsday”, a sort of literary St Patrick’s Day. It’s a commemoration of the fictional day in 1904 in which James Joyce’s comic masterpiece Ulysses unfolds. All around the world there are Bloomsday celebrations. In Auckland for the past decade a Bloomsday cabaret has unleashed itself in the red-light district of Karangahape Rd.



In the recent movie My Week With Marilyn, Marilyn Monroe, played by Michelle Williams, is shown with a copy of James Joyce’s classic 20th century modernist novel Ulysses on her bedside table.

It’s a reference to the internet’s most famous literary turn-on.

If you Google up “Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses” you’ll find yourself gazing down on Marilyn Monroe, legs-first in a one-piece bathing suit, reading Ulysses. And not just any old chapter but the notorious soliloquy delivered by Molly Bloom right at the end.

And if you go to the Thirsty Dog pub on Karangahape Rd, Auckland, Rd on Saturday night, June 16, you can hear one of New Zealand’s leading actors, Wellington-based Carmel McGlone, reading from it.

She will be taking over from Robyn Malcolm who read the words of Molly last year in the annual one-night-only Jews Brothers’ Bloomsday, a cabaret re-creation of Ulysses

As well, you can see George Henare at his menacing best playing transvestite dominatrix Bella Cohen as he/she transmogrifies alarmingly into Helen Clark, Angela Merkel, all the Warner Brothers and then Kim Dotcom. 

A night to remember. 

Saturday night June 16,
Thirsty Dog Tavern, Corner Howe St & Karangahape Rd,  

For one night only!

McGlone and Henare bloom midst the hookers

Review by Dean Parker 17th Jun 2012

[Disclaimer: This is not so much a review as a writing into the historical record of a unique annual event by its promoter – ED]

“With winter upon us, many of you we know have been wondering—what are the compensations for living in New Zealand? We’re at the bottom of the world, we’re as far away from every interesting place as possible, it costs us a fortune to go anywhere, we have the highest cost of living in the universe, we have wages so low we can compete with China, we have public holidays so pitifully few that other countries have to embark on austerity programmes to get down to our level, we have the most boring right-wing government in the world, the longest commercial breaks on TV, and when our government establishes an Order of NZ for our top 20 citizens who does it award it to? a doddering old Greek crypto-fascist who happens to be married to the English Queen. Pa–thetic! WHY ARE WE HERE? Are we fucking nuts or what? Well, we’re here because once a year, every year, the only Hibernian-yiddisher Bloomsday in the known world is brought live from a seedy red-light district at the bottom of the South Seas! 
“I’m so happy
on Karangahape Road
fingers snappy
on Karangahape Road…”

And so began, yet again, Auckland’s annual anarchic salute to literature, music and politics that is the Jews’ Brothers Bloomsday. 

A celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the show takes in:

  • breakfast at the Blooms’(“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine…”);
  • Paddy Dignam’s funeral (“They tell the story, Ned Lambert said, that two drunks came out to Glasnevin cemetery one foggy evening to look for the grave of a friend of theirs. They asked for Mulcahy of the Coombe and were told where he was buried. After traipsing about in the fog, they found the grave sure enough. One of the drunks spelt out the name: Terence Mulcahy. The other drunk blinked up at a statue of Our Saviour that the widow had got put up. ‘Not a bloody bit like the man!’ says he. ‘That’s not Mulcahy, whoever done it!’);
  • Burton’s restaurant (“Stink gripped his trembling breath: pungent meatjuice, slop of greens. See the animals feed. Men, men, men…”);
  • the dust-up at Barney Kiernan’s (“So we turned into Barney Kiernan’s and there sure enough was the citizen up in the corner, working for the cause, having a great confab with himself and that bloody mangy mongrel of his and he waiting for what the sky would drop in the way of drink. MONGREL: Woof, woof, woof!CITIZEN: Down boy, down. Heel! Heel!…”);
  • the appearance of Stephen Dedalus (“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his wife for his friend. Go thou and do likewise…”);
  • the lonely siren of Sandymount beach, Gerty MacDowell (“Oh, what a brute you have been! At it again? A fair unsullied soul has called to you and, wretch that you are, how have you answered? An utter cad you have been. You of all men…”);
  • the fierce transvestite dominatrix Bella Cohen who transmogrifies into Helen Clark then Angela Merkel and then the Warner Brothers
    (“BELLA:  I am—Warner Brothers!
    BLOOM:  Warner Brothers?
    BELLA:  Warner Brothers!
    BLOOM:  Which one?
    BELLA: Who gives a fuck which one?! I’M ALL OF THEM come to extort a cool $100 million in tax concessions from the pathetic New Zealand taxpayer, plus parliamentary legislation removing legal redress from workers in the film industry! They said to me you’ll never get away with it but I replied never underestimate the pitiable longing of New Zealanders to be on the world stage as a urine-sodden midden for mediaeval dwarves! How piss-pot pathetic can you get?”);
  • §      the affray with the British squaddies  (“Brimstone fires spring up. Dense clouds roll past. Heavy Gatling guns boom. Pandemonium. Troops deploy. Gallop of hoofs. Artillery. Hoarse commands. Bells clang. Backers shout. Drunkards bawl. Whores screech. Foghorns hoot. Cries of valour. Shrieks of dying. Pikes clash on cuirasses. Thieves rob the slain. Birds of prey, winging from the sea, rising from marsh lands, swooping from eyries, hover screaming, gannets, connorants, vultures, goshawks, climbing woodcocks, peregrines, merlin, blackgrouse, sea eagles, gulls, albatrosses, barnacle geese. The midnight sun is darkened. The earth trembles. The dead of Dublin arise and appear to many…”);
  • the final perambulation of Bloom and Stephen (“Stephen dissented openly from Bloom’s view on the importance of dietary and civic self help while Bloom dissented tacitly from Stephen’s views on the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature. Bloom assented covertly to Stephen’s rectification of the anachronism involved in assigning the date of the conversion of the Irish nation to christianity from druidism by Patrick son of Calpornus, son of Potitus, son of Odyssus, sent by Pope Celestine I in the year 432 in the reign of Leary to the year 260 or thereabouts in the reign of Cormac MacArt [266 A.D.]…”); and
  • the final soliloquy of Molly Bloom (“…why cant you kiss a man without going and marrying him first you sometimes love to wildly when you feel that way so nice all over you you cant help yourself I wish some man or other would take me sometime when hes there and kiss me in his arms theres nothing like a kiss long and hot down to your soul almost paralyses you…”).

And in between episodes were the Jews Brothers’ Band singing a klezmer version of Finnegan’s Wake and standards like ‘The Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and that Irish anthem the ‘Alabama Song’ (“Show me the way to the next whiskey bar…”) and their own ‘Dunkin’ Bagels’, and Linn Lorkin singing ‘Hail Queen of Heaven’ and ‘The Croppy Boy’, and a Barbershop Quartet reduced to a Barbershop Solo who had the audience joining in a sweet and mellifluous ‘Danny Boy’. And there was Chris Trotter singing a hair-sticking-up-on-the-back-of-your-necks ballad to Irish revolutionary James Connolly and – sensationally – Japanese mezzo soprano Yuko Takahashi doing Donizetti’s ‘O Mio Fernando’. 

The fabulous George Henare clearly relished his multiple roles of Stephen Dedalus, Gerty MacDowell and an extraordinarily costumed and alarmingly bearded Mrs Bella Cohen. His soft-shoe shuffle with the band singing Irving Berlin’s ‘Without My Walking Stick’ was a show-stopper.

Hershal Herschel was in his element as a Woody Allenish Poldy Bloom. Former Auckland Equity branch secretary Farrell Clearly was spot-on as a querulous and opinionated Deasy. Unite Union organiser Irish Joe Carolan brought the roof down as both the deranged Sinn Feiner nationalist The Citizen and his mangy mongrel and Irish actor Brian Keegan maintained a level of coherency to the entire proceedings with beautifully measured readings.

The whole show was brought to a stunning conclusion by Carmel McGlone’s lovely and moving and straight-from-the-heart rendition of Molly Bloom’s final, dreamy soliloquy. And what genius thought to follow this with a final, out-of-the-blue, merde-hot finale – Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’?

The coming together of Irish literary and Jewish musical cultures in Auckland has produced a show rightly touting itself as the only Hiberno-Hebrew Bloomsday in the known world. It is a one-night show held in an absolutely jam-packed K’ Rd pub opposite a massage parlour with hookers outside peering in through street windows at the commotion. As the pre-show publicity said, if Auckland wants to be taken seriously as a world-class city, it doesn’t need a new Casino Convention Centre it needs more scabrous joyous back-alley art like this. This is what makes a world-class city. 


Graham Atkinson June 17th, 2012

Sounds like a wonderful day and I'm only sorry I could not get to enjoy George and Carmel's outstanding performances. Thanks for posting.

David Geary June 17th, 2012

Thanks Dean! Awesome review and analysis of NZ. I can almost smell those fried kidneys from here in Vancouver. Glad to see the stream of Joyce flows through you and, yeah, re Warner Bros - Shame we couldn't say ELVISH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING! 

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