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We Are an Archipelago review: Island lives collide in an entrancing performance piece

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Blending poetry with music, Erin Fornoff weaves a beguiling tale of an unlikely friendship

We Are an Archipelago

Boys’ School, Smock Alley Theatre

Two very different individuals form an unlikely bond in Erin Fornoff’s spoken-word piece, which explores John Donne’s contention that no one is an island in a geographically appropriate setting. Accompanied by a live score from the pianist Johnny Taylor, Fornoff, who is both writer and performer, conjures the tale of 99-year-old Bill’s valedictory return to the isolated North Carolina island of his birth, where he meets Deena, a 21-year-old expectant mother escaping the unhappy circumstances of her pregnancy.

If the set-up is a bit pat — there are references to the dusk and dawn of life, lest anyone miss the symbolism — the telling is anything but. Delivered in a resonant register, the language loops around in an impressionistic yet beguiling manner, with the narrative viewpoint shifting constantly. As Bill and Deena’s story moves to a biological and meteorological crescendo, director Franziska Detrez’s effective use of spare staging and lighting heightens the changing mood, as does Taylor’s understated music. But ultimately it’s Fornoff’s show, her evocative — and often very funny — prose poem brought to life by her entrancing performance.

Runs at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin 2, until Saturday, September 24th, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney is a radio columnist for The Irish Times and a regular contributor of Culture articles