PuSh Blog

Curatorial Statement – Norman Armour on Have I No Mouth

January 01, 2014

Have I No Mouth is a first for the PuSh Festival. But it’s not a first to be proud of: it’s rather embarrassing, and actually long, long overdue. It’s the first time we’ve had a work both created and produced exclusively by Irish artists.

And there’s no good reason.

The Irish scene is one of the most audacious, theatrically irreverent, resolutely fantastical and—in an age of theatre creation that wears the mash-up technique as a badge, embraces irony almost as a genre, and is proliferated with the use of movement, projections and other media—stubbornly rooted in story, earnestness and language.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the Dublin International Theatre Festival a number of times. It’s one of the world’s great theatre festivals. I’ve attended shows at the Abbey and the Gaiety. I’ve seen several works each from leading theatre companies such as Pan Pan, Druid, The Corn Exchange, Fishamble and Rough Magic. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the sublime artistry of dance/theatre groups like CoisCéim and Fabulous Beast. I’ve seen the work of acclaimed contemporary Irish playwrights Mark O’Rowe and Enda Walsh interpreted by artists on both sides of the Atlantic. (With Théâtre la seizième we presented a production of O’Rowe’s Howie the Rookie in 2007, which was produced by Montreal’s Théâtre de la Manufacture. Its artistic director at the time, Jean-Denis Leduc, is possibly one of the most informed practitioners in North America regarding Irish playwrights of anyone I know.) Druid’s 2007 premiere production of Walsh’s insanely rapid-fire, neo-gothic, macabre, fun house ride The Walworth Farce is on my all-time top ten list.

So why Brokentalkers and their production of Have I No Mouth? Not sure that it has anything to do with anything other than timing and people. And perhaps, it’s a mild sense of guilt and obligation catching up with me. Truth be told, there have been several works in the recent past that were worthy of being included in the PuSh Festival, if it were not for chance and circumstance.

We have a bit of a theme running through a couple of this year’s curatorial choices: mothers and sons. (Last year’s was fathers and daughters). While Why Not Theatre’s A Brimful of Asha is the other half of PuSh’s coincidental pairing, Brokentalkers’ Have I No Mouth couldn’t be more polar opposite—in tone and theatrical means.

Have I No Mouth is a muted eulogy of sorts; the ennui or dead air after a wake. It’s an exploration of the changing nature of the relationship between a mother and son in the aftermath of familial tragedy—the father’s unnecessary death. Onstage, mother, son, and mother’s psychiatrist. This roller coaster of emotions, reflections and contemporary theatrics is in the end, a celebration of life, friendship, understanding and compassion. Like many things Irish, it’s bitter, proud, melancholic, pleading, tender, defiant, tinged with humour, and fierce…fierce as all get out. Like so much in the contemporary Irish canon, Have I No Mouth is an intricate and layered work whose impact only deepens with multiple viewings. Trust me, I saw it two nights in a row.

Will this be the last time we have the work of an Irish company in the PuSh Festival? Definitely not. Should you see this work? Unquestionably yes.

Norman Armour, Artistic & Executive Director
PuSh International Performing Arts Festival