Feidlim Cannon’s father Seán died in 2001 – a death that could have been prevented. In addition to coping with the loss of a husband and father, Seán’s wife, Anne, and his sons had to negotiate the minefield of taking legal action against the medical profession.
It was only when that the legal issue was sorted, eight years later, that the family could grieve properly, says Feidlim.
He is a writer and performer, and both were central to his grieving process. The result is Have I No Mouth, a powerful piece of theatre that explores the impact of a tragic death on those left behind.
The drama features Feidlim, but more surprisingly his mother Ann is also on stage too, despite having no background in theatre – previously a community activist, she is now a complementary health practitioner and inter-faith minister.
Dublin company Brokentalkers has gained a reputation and many awards for its real-life dramas which unflinchingly examine Irish society – The Blue Boy, which visited Galway last year, dealt with life in our children’s institutions.
“Brokentalkers work with people and their real-life stories, and if we were asking people to collaborate with us, it was only fair we would do the same thing and ask ourselves the same questions,” Feidlim explains about Have I No Mouth.
But he was only able to question his deep loss when the legal issues around his father’s death had been addressed – he began working on it after the case was settled.
The play arose out of discussions with Feidlim’s creative partner in Brokentalkers, Garry Keegan.
As they discussed how to approach dramatising this story they agreed it was vital that Feidlim’s mother Ann take part, despite her lack of theatrical experience.
“The play was a way of exploring our family history and, for me, my mother had to be there,” says Feidlim.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.