DC Theatre Scene ★★★★ Review "mesmerizing adaptation"

by Debbie Minter Jackson, May 26th 2016

The piece unfolds in distinct scenes, portraying loss, sadness, humor, and always nuggets of memory. Sound and lighting designers play important roles in establishing the scenes with precision and gracefulness. Her vocalizations capture the rhythm and energy of nature, including storms that start off like distant thunder and then increase in volume enough to rumble the house. At one point, she holds, even squeezes, her face between her hands, and the stark lighting gives the illusion that her head is detached from her body as she continues to spout sentences and phrases in staccato bursts.

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DC Metro Review "a performance so eerily transfixing it seemed shamanistic"

by John Stoltenberg, May 26th 2016

Last night Fouéré returned to DC, this time to the Family Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in riverrun, a solo piece Fouéré adapted from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Alone on a big black-box stage with only a floor mic for company, Fouéré commanded not only our visual field but the aural receptors of our brains, in a performance so eerily transfixing it seemed shamanistic.

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TN2 ★★★★★ Review "measured and skilful delivery"

by Jamie Tuohy, January 28th 2016

Few theatre-makers or artists could take on Beckett quite like Olwen Fouréré. The Irish actress born to French parents is the ideal candidate to tackle the once-Paris-based writer. Renowned for her avant-garde experimentalism (think riverrun – her adaptation of Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake), Lessness provides the perfect stage for Fouréré to explore her signature aesthetic. 

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The Fashion Horn Review "40 minutes of existensial soul-searching that will set your mind racing and your heart pounding"

by Mary Cate Smith, 29th January 2016

Olwen Fouéré has always been something of an enigma to me. Her long bleach blonde hair, her piercing eyes, that deeply resonant voice, earthy and strong, her onstage presence electrifying. And it is that same magnetic presence, that mesmerising voice that draws us in in The Emergency Room theatre company’s adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Lessness, currently playing in the Project Arts Centre. Watching her perform this abstract prose piece sends the audience on a tumultous journey into sanity and back again. The stillness, the poise, the lack of movement allows the audience to hone in completely on the text and attempt to dissemble the random order of stark imagery presented by Fouéré as she listens through headphones and slowly recounts Beckett’s words in an abruptly staccato manner.

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Sydney Morning Herald Year in Review 2015 - Riverrun "The 'wow' moment"

by Jason Burke, 29th December 2015

There have been some dazzling performances this year, but none dazzled harder than Ireland's Olwen Fouere, who swept her audience into Dublin's River Liffey and James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake in her one-woman tour de force Riverrun. Vocally and physically, she was mesmerising. "When actors loftily talk of their 'instrument'," I wrote at the time, "this is what they are talking about, though you won't see many with this kind of orchestra on tap."

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Sunday Independant Review "a magnificent theatrical achievement"

by Emer O'Kelly, 27th July 2015

Beckett wrote Lessness in French, calling it Sans; the title of his English translation is significantly different in meaning. Further, he used the word "lessness" in other contexts to mean "minimal". And yet the 1970 short story performed by Olwen Fouere (in a co-production between her own company The Emergency Room, Cusack Projects, and the Galway Arts Festival) is an extraordinary exposition of emotional breadth. And for that, Fouere's performance must take the credit.

Barely 1500 words long in total, each sentence in Lessness is repeated twice, apparently randomly as though almost flung onto the page to see what might happen. But the hand that throws them is that of a creator, a kind of literary godhead for whom even chaos is part of the plan.

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Irish Examiner ★★★★★ Review "a wonderful feat"

by Padraic Killeen, 25th July 2015

When William Burroughs described to Samuel Beckett his famous ‘cut-up’ technique — a text is produced by cutting it up and then imposing a random new order upon the shreds — the Irishman was dismissive, reportedly telling the American: “That’s not writing — it’s plumbing.” It didn’t prevent Beckett from composing short prose in the vein of the Burroughs cut-up style, in 1969.

The result was ‘Lessness’, a ‘story’ of short fragments pitched together at random, yet with seductive shades of meaning.

This text has been converted into a performance piece by The Emergency Room and it’s one of the real treats at this year’s Galway Arts Festival.

Sitting at a long table, beneath a screen pulsating with white light, Olwen Fouéré delivers Beckett’s esoteric text in a vocal style that is splendidly impersonal — akin to a vocoder, and yet human nonetheless.

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Galway Advisor Interview "Beckett was the first who spoke to my interior landscape"

by Charlie McBride, 25th June 2015 

Olwen Fouéré returns to the Galway International Arts Festival with Samuel Beckett’s evocative short prose work, Lessness, fresh from a sold out run at the Barbican’s International Beckett Season.

Lessness was published in 1970, the same year Beckett won the Nobel Prize. Through the many refractions of its profoundly evocative text, Lessness suspends us in a vast desert landscape where we glimpse the contours of a small body standing fixed, amid ruins or refuge.

Fouéré, a magnetic performer whose arresting physical presence is matched by her phenomenal vocal technique, has presented and appeared in Beckett’s works since 1976. Her most recent creation, riverrun, an adaptation of the voice of the river from Finnegans Wake, has been touring internationally since it premiered at the 2013 arts festival.

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Ayoungertheatre.com Review "Fascinating"

Chris McCormack, 24th July 2015

What does it say of Lessness, a short prose penned in 1969 by Samuel Beckett, that its 60 lines were arranged at random, plucked one-by-one from a container?  A structure inferred by chance doesn’t suggest the rigour renowned by the writer’s stagecraft, where every detail down to a pause, footfall or breath is finely calculated.

Perhaps it’s because of its incidental make-up that an ashen Olwen Fouéré has confined herself behind a desk next to a metallic lamp, wearing headphones over her ears; she has yielded behind Beckett’s text as opposed to positioning herself alongside, speaking it aloud as if receiving a live transmission from the end of the world:  “Ruins true refuge long last towards which so many false time out of mind”.

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The Irish Times ★★★★ Review "Solace in Beckett’s world without end"

by Peter Crawley, 23rd July 2015

It may seem like a hiding to nothing or a mordant little joke, but Olwen Fouéré’s appropriately ascetic performance of Samuel Beckett’s late prose piece, Lessness – written in fragments and pieced together at random – seems to be an attempt to get the message.

Sharing a long white desk with an anglepoise lamp, Fouéré clasps her hands neatly, lets her steely eyes scan the horizon and listens intently as Beckett’s words are relayed to her through headphones.

It’s as though she is receiving a distant, decayed transmission from the end of the world. That, more or less, is the case with Lessness.

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The Irish Times Interview "How Olwen Fouéré conquered Beckett’s memory challenge"

by Peter Crawley, 20th July 2015

It was hardly the first time that Olwen Fouéré had been the object of scholarly fascination. She is the artist, after all, who co-founded one of Ireland’s earliest experimental theatre companies, Operating Theatre; a performer who has collaborated frequently (and pivotally) with playwright Marina Carr, choreographer Michael Keegan Dolan and director Selina Cartmell in the creation of startling new works; someone who can count Hamlet, Salomé and Paula Spencer among a score of roles that have legendary reverberations.

Even so, it must have been unusual to bring her celebrated production of Riverrun, a sensual and near-musical performance inspired by James Joyce’s famously inscrutable Finnegans Wake, to the pricked ears of Princeton University.

One Joycean academic, making a repeat visit, brought along his first-edition copy of the book and read from it while Fouéré performed, like a literary detective comparing earlier versions of a writer’s manuscripts. “He was very exited about having worked out where it came from,” Fouéré remembers, with characteristic enthusiasm, brightening at the memory of academic fandom.

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Guardian ★★★ Review "an intense hit of Beckett performed by Olwen Fouéré"

by Lyn Gardner, 8th June 2015

Samuel Beckett’s brief 1969 prose poem, known as the more elegant Sans in its original French, is staged with a haunting simplicity as part of the Barbican’s International Beckett season. The performer, Olwen Fouéré, an actor who would be compelling if she sat doing absolutely nothing at all, previously attempted this piece – never intended to be staged – at the National Theatre over a decade ago. But this pared-down version is very different.

Fouéré simply sits at a table, an anglepoise lamp providing illumination, speaking the text while behind her a screen – suggesting something charred around the edges – flickers as ash-grey as the landscape evoked by Beckett.

His is a ruined world where a figure stands petrified like a living sandstone or rock. Fouéré both skewers us with her gaze and seems to be looking into her own soul. The effect is of something both external and also entirely internal, without and within.

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The Financial Times ★★★★ Review "Fouéré gives every word of Beckett’s 60 sentences considered weight"

by Ian Shuttleworth, 7th June 2015

Not so much a story as a detailed description of a snapshot, it captures a moment of simultaneous hope and despair. Miked up at a desk beneath a video screen in neutral to represent the grey sky, Fouéré gives every word of Beckett’s 60 sentences considered weight; scarcely lit herself, she turns a venue more normally used for business presentations into a space for meditation.

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The Irish World Interview "Lessness is more"

30th May 2015

I wanted to have another go at being able to offer it properly,” Olwen Fouéré says of Samuel Beckett’s prose Lessness.

Lessness uses random word permutation that calls for the reader to work to untangle the threads of sameness and difference to discern the underlying structure. It is a text Olwen has read before. “I really wanted to approach it completely differently this time.”

Born on the west coast of Ireland to Breton parents, Olwen has received numerous awards and nominations including Irish Times/ ESB Best Actress in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2011, Dublin Theatre Festival Best Actor 2003 but one of her earliest accolades was the Dublin Festival Samuel Beckett Award in 1998.

Olwen explains Lessness is a text she has long felt connected to: “When I came across Beckett’s work, he was the first writer, certainly the first playwright that I felt passionate about.

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Thesydneyoutsider.com Review “ a remarkable performance”

by Barry Hearst, 19th March 2015

Rivverun had its genesis in an earlier visit to Sydney, when Fouéré was here for the 2011 production of Terminus. When the Irish consulate invited her to read Ulysses for Bloomsday she insisted on reading the final pages of Finnegans Wake, when the river dissolves into the sea.
Fouéré told ABC radio, “In this public space, I felt an extraordinary shift in the atmosphere as I was doing it, and there were a couple of moments where I just had the hairs standing up at the back of my neck, and could feel this higher frequency all through the room.”

As she stepped off the stage, she knew her next piece would be performing as the voice of the river in Finnegans Wake.

And what a remarkable performance it is. At the risk of getting biblical, Fouéré is Joyce’s words made flesh. She pulls Finnegans Wake from the page, in all its tangled, tumultuous beauty and breathes life into it. Joyce’s words are given wings.

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