Dunstan Playhouse, Thu Feb 26
Olwen Fouéré stands at the front of the stage; diminutive, commanding, silent and still. She intently surveys the patrons as they file in and get themselves settled. Without any cue from sound or lighting, or from Fouéré herself, the audience gradually hushes and awaits the performance. It’s not immediately forthcoming; the lights stay up and Fouéré remains in her spot for some time, perhaps to ensure that people are sufficiently acclimatised in order to fully appreciate what is to come.
We begin. Immediately, Fouéré launches into her piece, based on the last section of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Words fly from her mouth and fill the auditorium and she becomes the voice of the river. Generally, there’s no time to dwell on what you’ve heard. If you focus too long on any one of these beautifully expressive phrases, you might miss the next half-dozen.
Movement is minimal in this Joycean feast. It would only be a distraction in any case. There’s enough expression and passion in Fouéré’s face and voice to give life to these words from Joyce’s book of the night. She needs little else. There is a school of thought that the optimal way of experiencing James Joyce is to hear, rather than read, his words and this is an excellent example.
The set is big, airy, and sparsely decorated. This only emphasises the power of the words and of Fouéré’s impressive performance.
Audience members occasionally laugh at the utterance of one of Joyce’s classic examples of wordplay but the real joy here is in simply immersing oneself in the entire work. Going, as it were, with the flow.
Suddenly, symbolically, we arrive at the dawn. We are done. Fouéré appears breathless. She’s not alone.
riverrun continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times until Mon Mar 2.
Book at BASS on 131 241 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image by Colm Hogan.