Theatre review: Have I No Mouth
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Have I No Mouth at Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), reviewed by Joyce McMillan
WHATEVER else happens in this new show by Brokentalkers of Ireland, it raises some interesting questions about current trends in theatre, and their strengths and weaknesses. Inspired by his own family’s experience of bereavement, this 70-minute show by Irish theatre-maker Feidlim Cannon is a loosely-knit collage of dialogue, documentary, family movies, hand-made props and theatrical movement performed by Cannon, his mother Ann, and a third actor. It focuses on two bereavements in the family, the early loss of Feidlim’s youngest baby brother Sean, and the more recent loss of Feidlim’s father, John, who died unnecessarily after a mis-diagnosis of an uncommon but curable illness, and whose death was followed by a long legal battle.
The problem with the looseness of the format, though, is that it sometimes fails to demand enough from its creators, in the way of narrative focus, or sharpness of vision. Cannon’s show is in fine fettle in its early scenes exploring Feidlim’s relationship with his mother, and his response to the death of the baby, his mother’s confusing use of the phrase, “we’ve lost him”.
However, it gets much more awkward and inconclusive when the third actor begins – with a bandage-wrapped head – to portray his dead dad, in a series of physical tussles, wrangles and dances.
In the end, the show seems not to know whether it is about the pain of ordinary bereavement, or about a sad and unusual battle for justice and closure, following a fatal medical error; and it is difficult to avoid the feeling that a less indulgent theatrical style might have forced clearer decisions, and created a show with more beauty, more clarity, and more impact.
Until 25 August. Today 11am
More info: Have I No Mouth is at Traverse Theatre
Originally published in The Scotsman