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Onstage family therapy at the Lyric for playwright and actor Feidlim Cannon

By Jackie Bell

Family bereavement and swapping memories are factors driving Feidlim Cannon's latest venture Have I No Mouth, which sees him share the stage with his mother Ann and their psychotherapist Erich Keller.

The show is currently touring Ireland, with a performance at the Lyric theatre in Belfast on Thursday night.

Produced by Brokentalkers in association with Project Arts Centre, the show will take the audience through Feidlim's family history, and nothing is off the table.

Explaining how the idea for the show came together, Feidlim (39) said: "My dad passed away in 2001 which was obviously a huge tragic event for my family and over the years I've tried to deal with his death through artistic expressions.

"So I knew I wanted to do a show about it.

"Once I made that decision it was just really about trying to convince my family to come on board with me and help me make this piece."

Feidlim's brother also passed away when he was a baby, so bereavement was always going to be the main topic of discussion between the Dublin-based family  - but first he had to convince his mother to take part in the show.

"I approached her to help me make this piece - she said yes pretty much immediately, but what she wasn't aware of was that I was very keen on having her on stage with me," he laughed.

"That took a little bit more encouragement."

"But then we started doing memory swap workshops between the two of us and we would document what would come up.

"We started off swapping memories about my dad and the stories that we told started to shape the script in a way - we would write down anything that we thought was interesting."

As part of the workshop process, Feidlim enlisted the help of Dr Keller who initially came to observe the meetings between the mother and son.

But it wasn't too long before Feidlim felt the therapist also needed to be part of the show.

He explained: "By the second or third workshop he started asking these interesting, probing questions and he then he suddenly became a very integral part.

"So essentially what the audience will see on stage will be myself, my mother and a real life therapist, and I suppose what they will experience will be a family therapy session."

Baring your family history and personal issues on stage to a group of strangers is no doubt a daunting prospect for anyone, and Feildlim does agree that it hasn't been an easy process.

"It's difficult, and it's a challenging piece of work for myself and my mother," he said. "But it is also quite challenging for the audience.

"It deals with the deaths of loved ones, which unfortunately everyone in the audience will have experienced - it's a very universal theme.

"It is hard for my mother and I to perform the play, but it's not a depressing or sad piece of work. I would say it's quite an enlightening, healing experience.

"I wanted to look at different ways people heal themselves after bereavment. And it is also a celebration of my brother and my father, so it's not all that morbid. "

"I get to hang out with my mum as well," he joked. "We don't live that close to each other so it's nice to get to see her and we are both looking forward to being in Belfast."

Feidlim has toured Have I No Mouth as far and wide as the US, Canada, Australia and Europe - often receiving strong reactions from the audience.

"It seems to be the type of show that people either love or they absolutely hate, it's very rarely in the middle," he admited.

"But, across the board, what we found was the majority of the audience are really affected by the piece.

"It has been an amazing reaction."

  • Have I No Mouth is at the Lyric theatre in Belfast on Thursday, April 27.

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