Adelaide Festival of Arts – Riverrun

James Joyce is impenetrable. His writing is deliberately uncompromising. It would seem his whole game is to push comprehension and play between meaning and non-meaning to it’s extremities. Olwen Fouéré, the director and performer, was on stage already as we filtered into our seats. This only added to the growing discomfort in the theatre. The audience quietened itself before the lights were down. You start by having no idea what is going on. What is she saying? Is it Latin? Is it Irish slang? Is it a strong accent? Or am I just incredibly pissed? The show plays with your all sensibilities. Pulling at the edges of light and dark, sense and non-sense.  Ultimately you need to put aside any hope of understanding this as a regular play. Stop wondering if its supposed to be funny or if other people get it. The aim is to transcend the meaning in order to explore the intricate complexity of life itself, which if we’re honest about it isn’t as linear or ordinary as we tell ourselves it should be. The spartan stage and sprawling soliloquy gives the audience little – if anything – to work with. Displacing comfort for basic theatre survival. For those who may have just walked in off the street, as had my theatre-going companion, you could have been forgiven for feeling bewildered. I assure you, if you go to Finnegan’s Wake looking for an explanation, there too you may fall short. But at least then, you will see how apt Riverrun is at capturing ephemeral meaning through a blundering, overwhelming embrace of all living experience. It was a powerful performance that truly inhibits Joyce’s world, boldly entrenched in the searing fiction between here and there. Perhaps not for everyone, though. By Robbie Slape. Riverrun plays at the Festival Centre until March 2 but even if you miss that, make sure to have a look at all the great events happening for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, which runs until March 15. Tickets and details available on the website.



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