★★★★ The Irish Times

Dolores at Dublin Dance Festival

Michael Seaver

15 May 2018

Freeing Lolita from Nabokov’s narrative clutches

Dolores Haze was raped and brutalised in Nabokov’s novel Lolita. In Junk Ensemble’s Dolores, she is dancing back at that oppression, highlighting her trauma and reclaiming her voice. Lolita is voiced by an unreliable narrator, and the audience at Dolores are also presented with competing narratives.

 Split into two wristband-wearing groups, they follow either white or black batons around areas of the Chocolate Factory, encountering real and fictitious scenes based on the novel. The character Dolores is embodied by three performers (Amanda Coogan, Julie Koenig and Deirdre Griffin) while Mikel Murfi plays the dual roles of Humbert and Quilty.

 Although there is no narrative thread, some episodes create first impressions that colour the perception of subsequent dances. The white-wristband group first see Dolores (Coogan) silencing Humbert by stuffing peaches into his mouth and slamming him against the wall of an attic bedroom. Revenge and inner strength become the first impression. Later, during a duet between the other two Doloreses (Koenig and Griffin), this group overhear the distant sound of the wall slamming (being performed for the black group) while watching the two dancers grapple and climb on each other’s back. There is a sense of struggle, but, in light of Dolores’s earlier resolve, the duet can also be seen as the characters tirelessly bearing each other’s weight in a gesture of self-support and self-preservation. Denis Clohessy’s music, played with aplomb by Conor Sheil and Danny Forde, attempts to leaven the proceedings, almost like Nabokov’s poetic language. Its soft-spoken timbre contrasts with the scrape of skin on concrete floor or sickening conversation between Humbert and Quilty. With Valerie Reid’s superb scenography, Dolores combines visual eloquence with the gut-punch of a victim impact statement.