I’m Not Here – Project Arts Centre – Review by Frank L.
Written, Directed and Designed by Doireann Coady
Run now finished – Feb 1st and 2nd 2019
The stage is bare other than for a rope hanging from the ceiling with a clip attached to its end. The audience was provided with a set of rules which included the following: “I thought no one could help but I was wrong… Where there is no hope hold the light…”. The telephone number of the Samaritans is also included.
There walks onto the centre of the stage a woman in a black jump suit. She stretches out both of her arms while holding in her right hand a lighter which she flicks on and off. She makes the usual announcements.
Doireann Coady then enters and both she and the woman in black carry chairs which they place centre change. Gradually, Coady dominates the stage and the woman in black moves to the side of the stage. She then relates in oft repeated phrases issues about the death of her brother Donal. He was immensely fond of music and there is a large amount of music and sound effects which permeate the performance thanks to Rob Moloney (composer) and Frank Sweeney (sound engineer). Donal wanted to be a DJ and the piece includes songs he wanted to play as a DJ set, with Radiohead, Massive Attack and Robert Miles all included.
The repetition of certain phrases ebbs and flows in Coady’s speech as she reveals more details about the death of her brother which include the arrival of an Garda Siochana. Those revelations are more about his death than about his life. Coady’s bodily movements become more frantic as she tries to handle her physical and emotional grief and her use of an empty chair is ingenious. But she frankly admits it is open to criticism which of course is one of the problems that surrounds suicide is that even to mention it can raise a disapproving eyebrow.
By definition, this is a very public display of grief of someone who was close to the performer. The complex mysteries and unknowns which surround the particular death are intensified in this case by the youthful age of the deceased and the fact that he died by his own hand. It is likely that the reaction of each individual member of the audience will vary to Coady’s performance. Those reactions will be influenced by their own experiences of death and the societal norms which have surrounded them. The issues are complex.
The various recent public discussions have reduced the silence which surrounds the phenomenon of suicide. For this member of the audience the repetition of various words and phrases which are repeated mantra-like became more of an irritant than a salve. But for other members it is possible the effect was the opposite. Anyone who is conscious of the prevalence of suicide in society is likely to benefit from seeing this performance. The strongest moments of the piece were when she talked about the life of her brother and the time they spent together. Largely, however, Donal remained a mystery as did the reasons behind his suicide.