I’m Not Here review: Like eavesdropping on an injured soul

In this ritualised meditation, Doireann Coady works through her grief for her brother Donal, who died 3,104 days ago

I’m Not Here at Dublin Theatre Festival until October 7th. Photograph: Dorje de Burgh

I’m Not Here at Dublin Theatre Festival until October 7th. Photograph: Dorje de Burgh

 

I’m Not Here

Project Cube, Dublin Theatre Festival

***

A chair. A bog standard, moulded plastic chair, with a chunk broken off to boot. It’s an unprepossessing object to imbue with meaning, or to inhabit the soul of a dead brother, but its everyday ubiquity works.

I’m Not Here is personal, theatre-maker Doireann Coady’s meditation, working through grief for her brother Donal, after his death by suicide 3,104 days ago.

A monologue of mourning sounds dreary, but this is more a ritualised invocation of the events surrounding his death: rewinds and replays of snips of life, phrases, voice recordings, music, in varying order, creating a sort of rhythmical incantation against which a bare narrative is set.

The form therefore mirrors the content, echoing how, for those who have lost someone close, the detail surrounding the death, and the time after it, replay over and over in your head, the mind’s attempt to deal with trauma almost becoming a comfort. These are also motifs of prayer – repetition, familiarity – and Coady’s work uses them to imbue her story with a ritualisitic quality.

On the one hand, this 70 minutes is supremely intimate and particular; on the other, the technology is centre stage in TheatreClub’s production, with childhood voice recordings, dance music, lights, at the core. The audience is addressed, the stage manager is part of the action, and the regular mic-checking is part of the quality of invocation. The pain of suicide is throughout, and is generalised in an evocative tableau towards the end.

Eight years after her brother’s death, Coady uses her theatre tools – she wrote, performed, directed and designed this show – to create something that is a little like eavesdropping on the working of an injured soul: “The sound a parent makes when a child is dead.”

The grief is raw below the surface, but the subject is dealt with head on, with skill and control. We know little of Donal Coady’s personality or life from this, and perhaps that’s the point. Coady exposes her anguish, regret, anger, little moments, and struggle for meaning, for reasons; but there are none.

Runs until Oct 7