Adapter, Director, Performer: Olwen Fouéré
Co-Director: Kellie Hughes
Reviewer: Monica Insinga
Olwen Fouéré’s transcendental adaptation of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, riverrun is back at the Project Arts Centre, back where it stood during its highly successful run at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2013 (DTF). This reviewer still clearly remembers seeing it during the DTF, thinking that she was witnessing something extraordinary, something raw and spellbinding, and knowing that that was a show impossible to forget.
A year and a half later, riverrun has grown to become such a mature show, thanks to its rewarding international tour through some of the chief theatre locations and venues worldwide (the National Theatre London, the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, where, during the Fringe Festival 2014, Fouéré collected some major awards, and finally overseas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music New York and at Princeton University).
Just like during the DTF, the audience was spellbound once more, eagerly responding to Fouéré’s cues and movements; and, if possible, her performance, particularly its rhythm and pace, is even more tight. Faithful to the script extracted mostly from Book IV of the Wake, Fouéré becomes the ultimate vessel for Anna Livia Plurabelle, Dublin’s river Liffey, the river ‘Life’ swimming towards the ‘ocean of time’ (programme note), endlessly repeating its cycle.
The show, just over one hour long, is an almost perfectly symmetrical journey through twilight, night and dawn, visually represented by Fouéré’s body movements, in pure symphony with Alma Kelliher (Winner, Best Sound Design, Irish Times Theatre Awards, 2013) and Stephen Dodd (Nominated for Best Lighting Design, Irish Times Theatre Awards, 2013) from start to end.
Adapting Joyce’s journey of the river, Fouéré, in concert with the two superb designers and her symbiotic co-director Kellie Hughes, brings to life the immortal words of the Irish writer with movements as loose as the water and the novel’s kaleidoscopic language. riverrun is a triumph of the human senses, as well as a triumph of geometric precision, as behind each carefully selected movement it is possible to perceive the performer’s painstaking rehearsals. Thus, Fouéré confirms her capability to perform a veritable tour de force, and at the end of the show what stays with the audience is this image of transcendental force brought to us by all the elements of the show, all in one visage.
Photo courtesy of Project Arts Centre. Runs untilJanuary 31st.