“Do you remember Sodome, a city of ruined excess. . . . .Sodome, all you have heard of it is true”.
The resonating voice of the woman in this work performed and translated by Olwen Fouere speaks of a tale of mystic, of memory, of death and resurrection. The Space Upstairs at the Project Arts Centre was transformed by the imaginative brilliance of John Comiskey into a mirrored, metallic and saline prision, in which the Woman awakens and from which she strives to escape.
This work is a translation by Fouere of a French text written by Laurent Gaude and which was published in France in 2009. Fouere was born in the West of Ireland to Breton parents. She has grown up with a duality of language and culture that allows for Gaude’s text and haunting narrative to be transposed so elegantly onto the Project stage. The space becomes an environment rather than a set in which the Woman reawakens as the rain falls and she comes back to life following years suspended buried in salt at the hands of her would be executioners. She is the last daughter of Sodome.
As she escapes her tomb, the contorted body of Fouere holds the gaze of the audience with every controlled movement in an intense and disciplined performance. Her legs, her fingers, her ankles, her toes, the salty stone on which she walks all bear the crippling stiffness of the excess, the shock, the conflict and the ruin that led to the downfall of her beloved Sodome.
The story by Gaude tells of the siege, contagion and slow but deliberate devolution of a city. It is a tale foreboding of innate amorality. A city that has hitherto thrived on excess, hedonistic sexuality and trust is shatteringly brought to a halt by a patient and silent assassin. “I was killing you as I greeted you”. This chilling admission reflects on the conflict and wars that plague our contemporary world, as contagion of distrust, fear, ignorance and intolerance threatens to rule in our world, every bit as forcefully as it did in the mythical Sodome. This is key to the excellent direction by Lynne Parker in a co-production by Rough Magic and Fouere’s own companythe Emergency Room. She creates an atmosphere of where memory is the link to past and future. The present is cyclical. Fouere opens the play by talking in the present, declaring she has always been here but we, as audience and as people in a nation and world have been blind to her presence.
The excess of the past, once again threaten to ruin our world. The multimedia backdrops are a montage, a cerebral premonition of what could come and what has come to our society that is dominated by blinding, loud media, over sexualised images and a smothering pursuit of commercialism. The transformation of the Woman in the later cantos of the play reflects the cyclical nature of this. It has brought about the downfall of Sodome. It CAN happen again.
The nature in which Fouere delivers the narrative demands a sensory awareness and response from the audience. The voice of the woman, the water that falls on her skin, the fire that burns Gomorrah, the smoke of the ruins of Sodome, it is an extremely sensory delivery. If one was to shut their eyes, the performance could almost be inhaled from the stage.
While the later cantos lack the intrigue, imagery and resonance of the opening sections, it is an extremely powerful production. Fouere astounds as does Comiskey’s staging and environment. The resolution is somewhat disjointed, the transformation from mythical past to current and present does not hit its intended mark. The building and rolling tension frustratingly does not spill over into climax as it so often threatens to do. Perhaps this is the only thing that is lost in translation.
Sodome, My Love. At Space Upstairs, Project Arts Centre until 27 March 2010.