Riverrun at the Shed
Riverrun is Olwen Fouéré’s adaptation of the voice of the river in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The latter is Joyce’s last work of prose, whose style makes it one of the most challenging reads in the English language.
Fouéré challenged herself in an attempt to give life to Joyce’s book after publicly reading a passage on Bloomsday (16th June) in 2011. Reprising Anna Livia Plurabelle’s monologue, where the character takes the guise of the river “Life”, the actress created Riverrun, keeping the original text as a source but shaping her own version drawing from different parts of the book.
The result is a one-hour performance that solely involves Fouéré and that, at the Shed, features a bare, dark setting and nothing else. The artist gives rhythm to the performance aided by a skilful game of lights, oscillating between slowly whispered sounds and impetuous streams of words, just like a river running its course – at times flowing placidly and at others like a flood.
Despite being quite idiosyncratic due to its experimental language, the text doesn’t come short in laughter but whether it makes sense or not in its representation is what really counts.
The Irish actress also directs herself in this performance as she takes possession of a small portion of the theatre, standing barefoot in front of a microphone yet disappearing and reappearing with the light changes. Fouéré doesn’t move around the stage too much, but she communicates effectively with her body language. Hers is a very intense performance, which makes up for the complicated text she is presenting. Fouéré embodies the river, she gets swallowed up, she re-emerges out of it, she modulates it in a physical struggle that leaves her emptied out and filled at the same time.
Riverrun may be hard to follow, harder to understand, but Fouéré’s rendition is excellent; the standing ovation she received last night should be encouraging enough to go and see this new show. With eyes closed it’s even more evocative.
Riverrun is at The Shed until 22nd March 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Riverrun here: