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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