Riverrun | Project Arts Centre DTF 13
Star Rating: 5/5
Review by: Una McMahon
Venue: Project Arts Centre
Adapted, performed and directed by: Olwen Fouéré
Co-director: Kellie Hughes
Sound direction: Alma Kelliher
Where to begin with James Joyce? To some, he is a master wordsmith, to others, impenetrable nonsense. An Irish man, exiled abroad by choice, but permanently tethered to the city of his birth. His descriptions of Dublin, and the habits of his characters, are celebrated in June every year – no other Irish writer commands such attention and debate.
The beauty of Joyce is that you don’t have to ‘get’ it. The fragmented and multi-layered nature of his writing means that it is accessible in a very personal way. As Beckett said, it has many identities – take what you need, and leave the rest. His words hum above the cityscape from the Martello Towers on the coast to Davy Byrne’s in the city; he is as much part of the fabric of Dublin as the river Liffey.
Riverrun is adapted from the final chapter of Joyce’s last work, Finnegans Wake, in which the closing words are given to the personification of the Liffey, Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP). Olwen Fouéré is mesmerising, giving voice to the ‘river of lives’ as she wends her way to the sea.
As the audience files in, Fouéré is standing motionless to one side, smiling benignly and enigmatically, an Irish Mona Lisa. The set is monochrome, a cable trails sinuously across the stage to a serpentine microphone stand. There is a grey sheen to the stage, like surf. Fouéré sways, before removing her shoes and stepping deliberately over the cable – into the water. She is wraith-like, and, with focused lighting (cleverly designed by Stephen Dodd), morphs fluidly from shape to shape as the river gurgles its way towards the sea. The soundtrack by Alma Kelliher is like a drug, bass-heavy, and the heartbeat of the piece.
The language is bewildering – a hypnotic and playful mix of nonsense words, sound effects, neologisms and portmanteau expressions, spoonerisms and homophones. It is a compelling mix of contrasts: alien, but Irish; serious, but profoundly funny; innocent, yet seductive; smooth and whispering, yet stormy and turbulent. It is as useful a metaphor for life as any other.
To quote ALP – ‘may he live for river’. And may this extraordinary piece of theatre run and run.
Riverrun runs in the Project Arts Centre until 6th October.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 3rd October 2013 | Theatre