Operating Theatre: Miss Mauger review – Roger Doyle and Olwen Fouéré’s compelling debut reissued

The 1982 debut from the composer and singer is still challenging

Miss Mauger
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Artist: Operating Theatre
Genre: Alternative
Label: Allchival

Dublin-based All City Records (of which Allchival is a sub-label) have been in the game too long to misjudge, especially in an Irish context. They have been supportive of Irish music as far back as the early 2000s, and latterly they have been shining a green-hued torch on some mavericks (Stano, Michael O'Shea) who make life more interesting. You can add to that list Operating Theatre, a distant memory of a group that featured Roger Doyle and singer/performer Olwen Fouéré.

This reissue of their 1982 debut album (with two bonus tracks) arrives at a point when Doyle and Fouéré are much better known. Doyle, recently made a Saoi of Aosdána, is regarded as one of the country’s premier composers (his latest solo album, The Electrification of Night, is typically adventurous), while Fouéré is a much-in-demand theatre/film actor.

More than 35 years ago, however, Operating Theatre trod a fine line between arty, appealing and disconcerting. And yet the album (so named after Fouéré’s mother) sits quite comfortably now between nonconformity and acceptance.

Part naive (Elation After Hours, Dragon Path), of its time (Syllable, The Austrian) and compelling (Sir Geoffrey, Rampwalk), Miss Mauger walks among us again. This is good news.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture