Citation for Olwen Fouéré


2nd April, 2016 at Dublin City University

Conferring of Honorary Doctorate

Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)

Olwen Fouéré was born in Connemara of Breton parents, Yann Fouere and Marie- Magdalene Mauger.

Olwen Fouéré is a nationally and internationally renowned actor, writer and multi-disciplinary theatre Artist and interpreter. In a long and distinguished career, spanning four decades, her incredible gifts and power and chameleon-like qualities have allowed her to navigate not only theatre, both mainstream and experimental, but also the visual arts, music, dance, opera, film and literature.

Her work as an actor began in 1976, playing numerous leading roles at the Project Arts Centre directed by Jim and Peter Sheridan, and at the Focus Theatre.

In 1980, with the composer Roger Doyle, she co-founded the company Operating Theatre which became Ireland’s leading avant garde theatre company. Together they created and produced her first solo performance “The Diamond Body” written by Aidan Mathews and in which she played a man in the process of transforming his gender.

In 2010,  Olwen established the artistic entity The Emergency Room for the development of ”projects in need of immediate attention”. One such project was “riverrun”, Olwen’s multi-award winning adaptation and performance of the voice of the river in Finnegan’s Wake. Olwen is currently artistic director of The Emergency Room.

Olwen Fouéré has received numerous awards and nominations for her work, including nominations for the Irish Times Best Actress in 1985, 1989, 2000 and 2006, receiving the Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival Best Actress Award in 2003, the Dublin Theatre Festival Samuel Beckett Award in 1998 and the Irish Times Best Actress Award in 2011.

In 2014, she received the prestigious Herald Archangel Award of the Edinburgh Festivals and The Stage Award for Acting Excellence.     She was also presented with the Irish Times Special Tribute Award for outstanding achievement and contribution to Irish Theatre.

It would be impossible to give a comprehensive list of everything Olwen Fouéré has accomplished, but the following selection of some of her extraordinary work are significant highlights.

The aforementioned “riverrun”, which premiered at the Galway International Arts Festival in 2013 and which Olwen has performed around the world to great acclaim and numerous prestigious awards. “Lessness” by Samuel Beckett which premiered at The Barbican and is touring to near and far flung places of great renown.

Both of these performances are ground breaking and have raised the bar for all of us and have been lauded highly. They are fearless plunges into pure performance, electrifying to witness. To watch Olwen’s performance of “riverrun” is like watching the birth of language, the birth of the human voice in all its glory and power and confusion. Her performance of “Lessness” is like watching the death of the world, the death of meaning, the death of the voice, of things, of us.

An Iconic piece from her work in Operating Theatre was her performance installation called “Here Lies” about the French writer Antonin Artaud’s journey to Ireland in 1937, in which she played the figure of Artaud, which premiered at the Galway Arts Festival in 2005. Other iconic pieces include her performances in “Sodome, my love” and “Passades”.

In mainstream theatre, Olwen Fouéré also leaves a huge imprint.  Her Salomé in Steven Berkoff’s “Salomé” at the Gate is still talked about. Last year, she revisited Salomé in Yael Farber’s production for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington.  In “Life is a Dream”, Olwen played Rosaura with the controversial but brilliant Catalan director, Calixto Bieito for the Edinburgh International Festival, the Barbican Theatre and BAM Next Wave in New York.   She created the role of The Mai in “The Mai” and the role of Hester Swane, a part written especially for her, in “By the Bog of Cats”.

In 2014, DCU was delighted to welcome Olwen when she read Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” for us as part of our Shakespeare Conversations Project.

Film is another medium in which she excels. In March of this year, Olwen was nominated for the 2016 IFTA Film and Drama Awards for her role in “The Survivalist” by Stephen Fingleton. She joined with Kevin Abosch in making a film of “Cassandra:fragments of a playscript” written by Booker Prize winning Irish author Anne Enright. Olwen also works closely with Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and director and choreographer, Michael Keegan-Dolan, and has been in several of his creations, notably “The Rite of Spring” with English National Opera and “The Bull” at The Barbican. And the list goes on.

Olwen Fouéré grew up speaking French and English so France is obviously close to her heart and a big part of her make up. She performs in Paris frequently, most recently performing “Lessness” in French, further evidence of her extraordinary versatility and knowledge.

Olwen has served on the boards of the Abbey Theatre and Theatre Forum. She has worked extensively with theatre companies in Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and the US, including the Royal National Theatre, the RSC and in the West End, at the Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris, at BAM and the Lincoln Center, New York, playing leading roles in numerous productions and presenting her own work. She has also contributed to a number of publications on contemporary theatre and performance.

Olwen’s focus is on making Art and in this she is truly a pioneer, a questing spirit, much revered by her contemporaries. She is a national treasure and an inspiration to us all. Nietzsche said that ‘it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified.’Olwen Fouere lives by this maxim. She is an aesthetic phenomenon. ‘Make voyages,’ said Tennessee Williams, ‘Make voyages, attempt things, there’s nothing else.’

Olwen Fouere we are delighted to have you here in DCU to celebrate your bravery, your artistic generosity and your astonishing gifts.

A Uachtaráin, I ask you to confer on Olwen Fouéré the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa).