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  • Chris O'Rourke


Olwen Fouéré in Marina Carr’s iGirl, directed by Caitríona McLaughlin. Image: Ros Kavanagh


Talk about go big or go home. Abbey Artistic Director, Caitríona McLaughlin, and Executive Director, Mark O'Brien's inaugural production sees Marina Carr ruminating back to the beginning of time, all the while looking toward a challenging future. Mixing myth, magic and misogyny, Carr's latest play, iGirl, boldly goes where few have gone before. Gazing bravely into the abyss, knowing that those who gaze into abyss will find the abyss gazing back into them. Asking hard, painful questions. About life, love, death and redemption. About the stories and myths we fashion and are fashioned for us. About woman as mother, daughter, writer, wife. Seeking answers not always easy to find. Or to face should you happen to find them.

With its short, staccato sentences, and structured scenes interwoven like stanzas, Carr's crisp, succinct iGirl has the structural allure of an epic poem. While also making its durational demands. Its liminal Everywoman, a mesmerising Olwen Fouéré, less a character so much as an archetype. An Amazonian high priestess. Or a looming Greek Goddess, Catherine Fay's excellent costuming evoking a myriad of associations. Joanna Parker's shifting set, with mirrored tables and superb video design by Parker and Daniel Denton, hints of an Olympian distance from where the Hera styled Fouéré first materialises looking down on us all. Manifesting physically to rage, rant, roll, and even perform a little jig. Her exposed breasts both her armour and her vulnerability.

Olwen Fouéré in Marina Carr’s iGirl, directed by Caitríona McLaughlin. Image: Ros Kavanagh

Stalking about like a Neanderthal queen, Fouéré crawls over the primordial ash, journeying us through Carr's creative concerns; the plight of strong women, the framing of Greek mythology, the nature of families and incest, particularly Daddy daughter relationships. Yet despite literary allusions from Platt to Greek Tragedy, it is iGirl's direct, personal address that often proves most compelling. Throughout, Caitríona McLaughlin walks a directorial tightrope, balancing opposing tensions between Carr's small i and big Girl, alongside a legion of competing energies clamouring for attention. Too much one way and Carr's rational rigour risks choking the life out of it all, too much the other and Carr's howl into the dark risks drowning out everything else.

If Carr crafts magic and McLaughlin magnificently channels it, it is Olwen Fouéré who casts its irresistible spell. With quiet authority Fouéré moves about with spellbinding grace ingrained so as to look like unforced naturalness. But look closer, not a phrase, gesture, tone, movement or expression is superfluous, seeming both organic yet meticulously calculated. Fouéré's voice hollowing out the silence, her towering presence meeting the abyss head on, commanding it's darkness into submission.

Olwen Fouéré in Marina Carr’s iGirl, directed by Caitríona McLaughlin. Image: Ros Kavanagh

Like an ancient Shaman, Fouéré re-tells stories from the depths of time. Yet from Jocasta to Joan of Arc, these are women's stories that need to be re-told. Which is important to hold on to. The comparative mythologist Joesph Campbell once claimed that women have no hero journeys and, arguably, no real myths of their own. iGirl sets out to correct that misperception. If its epic poem format demands indulgence, especially given the power of Carr's direct addresses in the final moments, it also suggests there's more at stake here than Carr rendering the personal. Hold fast to where Carr is trying to take you. Be patient and surprised by what resonates and calls. Allow Fouéré to be your guide. Witnessing a performer, and performance, in a league of their own, bestowing gifts that keep on giving.

iGirl by Marina Carr, directed by Caitríona McLaughlin and performed by Olwen Fouéré, ran as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2021. Produced by the Abbey Theatre, it tuns at the Abbey Theatre until October 30.

For more information visit The Abbey Theatre


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