I’m Not Here – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Writer: Doireann Coady

Director: Doireann Coady

Reviewer: Ciara L. Murphy

“I’m remembering so that you’ll never forget.”

Doireann Coady’s brother Donal committed suicide ten years ago. This play is about him and it certainly packs an emotional punch.

Coady writes, directs and performs in this one-hander at the Project Arts Centre to a packed house. I’m Not Here is emblematic of THEATREclub’s merging of theatre-as-activism and their focus on representing real-life stories. However, Coady’s own personal connection to this piece marks I’m Not Here apart from recent THEATREclub productions It’s Not Over or The Game. Here, there is no second-degree of removal. This has all happened to Coady and as she admits repeatedly throughout the performance, she’s remembering so that we never forget.

Her brother Donal is represented onstage by an empty chair. Coady asks us to put ourselves in Donal’s position and to imagine what it would be like to witness our own families in the aftermath of such an earth-shattering tragedy. The result is very effective, and potentially quite upsetting. But in true THEATREclub style, the audience always has an ‘out’ should the subject matter become too much.

The script is intersected with recordings from Coady’s childhood, and the second half of the show is framed around a recently found DJ set recording that her brother Donal made. The sound is skillfully managed by Frank Sweeney with composition from Rob Moloney.

Coady delivers an engaging and heartfelt tribute to her brother. Her regular interaction with the audience keeps the fourth wall suitably porous, allowing us space in her family’s private tragedy to reflect on ourselves.

I’m Not Here is dependant on and encourages audience participation. Coady entreats the audience to try not to think of this space as a theatre. This is fine in theory, but the framing of the audience in the space restricts the audience’s options and stunts the growth of the show at a vital moment. This reviewer feels that a less formal seating arrangement would have encouraged a greater level of participation, enhancing the dynamic THEATREclub sought to develop.

Despite this, I’m Not Here delivers a thought-provoking and challenging experience. Pulling no punches, THEATREclub ensures that you won’t forget Donal Coady’s story.

Warning: Contains references to suicide.

Runs until 2 February 2019 | Image: Contributed


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