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.