Review: Harp, A River Cantata

The spectacular opening show of the Tiger Dublin Fringe reimagined Dublin’s newest bridge as an ancient instrument

 

Harp: A River Cantata

Samuel Beckett Bridge

****

Olwen Fouéré’s voice rolls off the Samuel Beckett Bridge, as dry and warm as leaves on stone. Not for the first time this year does Fouéré seem to become the spirit of the river Liffey.

The bridge itself is lit up in shades of blue and red, and boats row purposefully up river. Lonesome brass notes swell on a crystal clear night, as composer Tom Lane’s rich music takes shape. Choirs and drums hum and thrum; dancers cut deft white shapes on the bridge; and everything is shot through with the vibrating clank of the bridge’s stanchions, hammered hard to make rough hewn notes.

The inspiration for this 30-minute piece is Dagda’s harp, which the Irish deity played to inspire his warriors and keep the seasons in order. Here the bridge is reimagined as Dagda’s instrument, and for 30 minutes it entrances huge crowds on both sides of the quays. There are lovely shifts in tone and colour, as lights flicker up to the skies, or suddenly strafe the crowd. Much of the action is packed into the opening five minutes, with the music taking a more exotic tempo towards the end. A playful finale sees water cannons duel across the river while a phalanx of rubber ducks sets sail for wider seas.

This is a a stirring, epic way to launch this year’s Tiger Dublin Fringe. To take one of the most recent parts of the city’s architecture and repurpose it as part set, muse and player is an artful stroke that won’t be matched for scale and ambition, and a deft coup de théâtre that all the city can savour.