| 14.7°C Dublin

‘Glorious finds’ for Olwen Fouéré in Marina Carr’s new solo show

Close

Olwen Fouéré will perform the Abbey Theatre production of Marina Carr’s iGirl on the Abbey stage as part of Dublin Theatre Festival from October 9-30. Photo by Barry McCall

Olwen Fouéré will perform the Abbey Theatre production of Marina Carr’s iGirl on the Abbey stage as part of Dublin Theatre Festival from October 9-30. Photo by Barry McCall

Olwen Fouéré will perform the Abbey Theatre production of Marina Carr’s iGirl on the Abbey stage as part of Dublin Theatre Festival from October 9-30. Photo by Barry McCall

iGirl, Abbey Theatre from Oct 9

I had 24 hours to turn my life around.”

Olwen Fouéré is talking about the rapid decision to mount iGirl, a solo show written by Marina Carr, as the Abbey’s main stage offering for the Dublin Theatre Festival. “Marina and I had talked about doing this piece and Marina sent it in to Caitríona [McLaughlin, the Abbey Theatre’s artistic director] with the possibility of her directing it further along the way. Two weeks later, Caitríona got in touch because the original plan for the Dublin Theatre Festival had fallen through due to people’s non-availability and she immediately thought this would be a possibility.” That was in the middle of June.

“I had to eliminate some things, and work some dates around. But it was such a great opportunity, I had to do it.”

We are sitting in the bright and airy Abbey rehearsal room at the end of a day’s rehearsals. Fouéré’s supple physicality seems most relaxed sitting on a mat on the floor. So what is the play about?

“We would probably all describe it differently,” she says. “For me it’s almost like a shamanic journey. There’s one line, one track of it, which is a bit like the tracking of a creative process. In other places it dives into different embodiments of certain figures from mythology, from history. Antigone appears, Oedipus appears, Joan of Arc appears, a Neanderthal appears. But they are not characters, it’s like a stream of the subconscious.”

She describes the rehearsal process for iGirl as being like an “archaeological dig — you get down one layer and you’ve got all these glorious finds which you’re embedding in your performance, then you discover another layer. I think the script is magnificent; to my mind it’s very much Marina Carr territory, but it’s unlike anything she has written before.”

“The main body they [the audience] will meet is someone who is between anthropological types: who is Neanderthal, but also human. Animal, human, male, female, full of transformations that make it very hard to pin down. And if you start to pin it down, you feel you are closing it down.”

This sounds more abstract than other Carr plays, which might be considered more realistic dramas, I suggest.

“I’d never call Marina’s work realistic drama,” Fouéré says. “She’s a kind of magic realist in many ways and yet they all have very recognisable situations and characters. All the work I’ve done with her up until this one has been a character in a play with a denouement and an arc. This also has an arc, but it’s not the traditional arc.”

Fouéré played in Ullaloo, Carr’s Abbey début on the Peacock stage, in 1991. Other plays followed, including By the Bog of Cats, which Fouéré describes as a “total gift — because that was like embodying an element of my own subconscious”. Fouéré was cast by different directors for all these shows, “but iGirl feels much more like something that’s come from our relationship”, though she points out it was originally written without her involvement. Some of the material from iGirl was previously made into an opera by Roger Doyle.

Video of the Day

“What I’m really enjoying about working with her on this is that it’s free of the constraints of a lot of the process, where writers submit their play and then it goes through massive drafts in consultation with literary departments and dramaturgs and all that. It’s a direct encounter [between script, director, actor], no interventions.”

Fouéré was busy during the Covid theatre-hiatus, with lots of screen work, including: Joyride, director Emer Reynolds’ first feature, starring Olivia Colman; Holding, a four-part TV series based on Graham Norton’s book; and most startlingly, a sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, filmed in Bulgaria, where she plays the only survivor, Sally Hardesty. She also spent time in Sydney with the dance theatre company Force Majeure.

Does she think the Covid experience will have a lasting impact on theatre?

“I hope it changes the world,” she says, “I hope it changes society, but I don’t know how much it’s going to change theatre, except that maybe there will be a clearer realisation of what the real deep power of the live experience is. Because we have not had it for a long time.”


Most Watched





Privacy