RIVERRUN

Riverrun is an adaptation of the final chapter of James Joyce’s controversial novel Finnegans Wake, a book that’s been cited as one of the most difficult novels of the twentieth century. Idiosyncratic and portmanteau languages are at the crux of the novel, so it’s no surprise that it’s long been considered an impossible book for adaptation. Having sat through over an hour of this sprawling theatrical monologue, I’d have to agree with that assessment.

It’s definitely an experimental production that will split an audience in two.

That’s not to say the production is without its merits; this has clearly been a passionate undertaking for the adapter, performer, and director Olwen Fouere. You can’t go into a project like this without giving it everything and Fouere gives a tremendous, imposing performance, as she stands centre stage reciting in an effervescent, ethereal manner. Fouere’s otherworldly performance is epic, grand, and completely commendable as she recreates the tale of ALP, the river ‘Life’, as it dissolves into the ocean.

However, the whole production gives off an aloof coldness that completely distances the audience. When one overstuffed, confusing monologue is followed by another, there’s no room to comprehend the puns, made-up words and poetic language. Fouere herself becomes more of a distraction than an embodiment of the language, bringing focus on her performance rather than the dialogue. It gradually feels more like watching the most creative vocal warm-up performed on stage. As the piece reaches its climax, there’s no sense of a journey and in retrospect the whole the whole performance feels one note. I left the auditorium with a bitter aftertaste, exhausted and confused.

This really isn’t a show that will appeal to all and I doubt it will win Joyce’s novel any new fans. Despite this, Riverrun has received much critical success so far and the performance I witnessed did receive much appreciation by the many members of the audience who didn’t leave the venue during the show. It’s definitely an experimental production that will split an audience in two. If you’re a fan of the novel, you will likely appreciate this unusual, unique performance, if not then I’d recommend avoiding Riverrun.

Reviews by Stewart McLaren

Online at www.DavidLeddy.com (with Traverse Theatre)

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RIVERRUN

★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

'...Soft morning, city! Lsp! I am leafy speafing. Lpf! Folty and folty all the nights have being falling... Not a sound, falling. Lispn! No wind no word ...' Olwen Fouéré, one of Ireland’s leading theatre-makers, performs her acclaimed adaptation of the voice of the river in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, following celebrated performances in Ireland and at the National Theatre, London. In a unique approach to Joyce’s extraordinary sound-dance, RIVERRUN embodies the river Life (Liffey/Anna Livia Plurabelle) who generates a powerful transformative energy as she dissolves into the great ocean of time.

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