WHEN an Irish work of drama wins a theatre award at Edinburgh Fringe Festival for ‘innovation, experimentation and playing with form’, it is cue to pay attention.
The show in question, ‘Have I No Mouth’ (it defies the term ‘play’) is rooted in a family tragedy that befell the Cannons in 2001. Their head of household, Seán Cannon, was not diagnosed fully when a decision to operate on slipped disk was made in an Irish hospital.
Ultimately, the man should not have had this surgery, despite the reality of the injury, because the real problem was then unknown to him and the medical team: Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). With this, the immune system damages the peripheral nervous symptom.
Feidlim Cannon of prize winning Brokentalkers project artists has taken his family’s true experience of their loss to the stage. There he engages with therapist Erich Keller and his mother to plumb their shared and individual memories, voice anger, heal…and rib each other, contradict and laugh.
‘Have I No Mouth’ is this moving, organic drama that shifts shape with the conversational dynamic in each nightly iteration.
“While it is a theatrical production, everything in it is pretty much factually based. It is very real and coming from a real place,” Cannon makes clear.
In interview, the cadence of his voice indicates that the struggle to come to terms with the unexpected, avoidable death of his father is with him still. He says the grieving process began only eight years after the death, when litigation with the hospital settled.
Essentially, we the audience sit in on a therapy session and sharing of memories that fluctuate and differ – as recollections do. In this work, devised with Brokentalkers partner Gary Keegan, the role of the psychotherapist is that. Keller is also an object used and moved to illustrate an incident being told.
Expect a scripted narrative but one that speaks organically. Keegan directs. There is a soundscape, lighting and other elements to the production that Cannon as writer does not reveal.
“It’s important to me that it is not sentimental, it cannot be self-indulgent. The audience are part of it too and will understand the theme of losing a loved one”.
“I forgot to say this is a very funny piece as well,” Cannon reminds himself apologetically at the end of interview. He underlines that “it’s not all dark. There is plenty of banter between my mother and myself!”
Tickets for ‘Have I No Mouth’ are at www.limetreetheatre.ie for Belltable, Friday 21 at 8pm.