Saturday, 11 October 2014

Have I No Mouth, Oct 10, 2014 ***1/2


By Feidlim Cannon & Gary Keegan; by Brokentalkers; Melbourne Festival;
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse; Fri Oct 10 to Mon Oct 13, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:***1/2 
Not a Herald Sun review. KH

For a performance that deals with family bereavement and anger, Have I No Mouth is surprisingly sweet, gentle, funny and approachable theatre.

Dublin-based theatre maker, Feidlim Cannon and his family suffered a horrifying loss 13 years ago when Feidlim’s father, Sean, underwent an unnecessary and dangerous surgery that caused his death.

In Have I No Mouth, Feidlim’s mother, Ann, and psychotherapist, Erich Keller, join Feidlim on stage to explore and expose their lives and grief in a conversation.

Their touching story encompasses Ann’s first date with Sean, Feidlim and his brother’s childhood, the death of baby Sean, the third son, and Sean Cannon’s untimely and horrific death.

On a near-empty stage, Feidlim and Anne, joined by cardboard cut-outs of Feidlim and his younger brother, Padraic, quiz each other about their family life, share tales about Sean, list objects that are important to them in telling their stories and argue about points of difference in their memories.

We enter their intimate world, hear their recorded therapy sessions with Erich, see pictures and film of the family and experience their joy, grief and rage.

The style is unembellished and natural, using simple theatrical devices such as direct address and some audience participation, but also employing Psychodrama techniques to replay moments for Ann and Feidlim, or to allow them to engage with Sean through role play.

The audience all blow up balloons while Erich explains that the balloons represent our rage that must be let out ina controlled way, not in one emotionally dangerous explosion.

Erich, with his head wrapped in bandages, becomes the silent presence of Dad/Sean, and enables Feidlim and Ann to confront their past, ask Sean important or unimportant questions, and, in Feidlim’s case, to vent his grief and anger in a frightening wrestle with dad (Erich).

In a poignant scene, Feidlim leaps into Sean/Erich’s arms saying, “Catch me. Hold me. Rock me. Don’t let me down.” We feel and see the child in the man, Feidlim, as he struggles to hold onto his feeling of his father.

There is warmth and sadness in this performance and a sense of identification with the Cannon family; a sense that this tragedy could happen to any of us.


By Kate Herbert

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