One for Abe Pogos... a literal heavyweight takes on a metaphorical one
UPDATE: Review appended
Honour Bound... not just performers climbing walls!
The thing is... I happen to disagree with Alison’s critique. Rather strongly. Rather than duplicate the debate here, you can join the fray... or watch from outside the ropes.
My review, which will appear in the Herald Sun in a day or two, ends thus: “Instead of hitting its mark, Honour Bound sprays bullets all over the place. Far too many of them are blanks”
[Yeah, yeah, I know... you can’t spray blanks at all!]
UPDATE: Now that the review has been published -- and since Disgusted asked so nicely -- here ’tis... the director’s un/cut.
Honour Bound by Nigel Jamieson and Garry Stewart. Malthouse Theatre. Until October 1.
Even Chairman Mao knew that -- in art -- a straight line beats a correct line every time. In his Yan’an lectures, he put it bluntly: “Works of art which lack artistic quality have no force, however progressive they are politically.” And this show fails to go beyond lecturing its audience. It fails to get beyond the ache to make a point.
Yes, the story of the appalling treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo has to be told -- the 20 hour interrogations, the humiliation of prisoners, the open-air cages, the extended periods in solitary confinement, the brutality and the breaches of the most basic rules of law and morality -- but our theatres are no places for documentaries, no matter how well-meaning. Nor are they the places for poster-and-slogan propaganda.
Honour Bound relies heavily on specially-filmed interviews with David Hicks’ parents Terry and Bev -- talking to camera -- and on voice-over reading from letters to and from David. The December 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also projected and read out. So too are Donald Rumsfeld’s rulings on acceptable interrogation techniques. (This is a masterpiece of euphemism in which, for example, “sleep deprivation” becomes “sleep adjustment.”)
Conceived and directed by Nigel Jamieson, Honour Bound takes its title from the motto of the task force responsible for detaining prisoners at Guantánamo Naval Base on the southeast corner of Cuba: “honor bound to defend freedom.”
Honour Bound is performed by a team of acrobats and dancers inside a huge, three-sided cage. They do extraordinarily well, under the circumstances. They mime walking shackled. They take turns at being oppressor and oppressed. They swing from straps, from harnesses and dance on the wire mesh itself. Best of all, they don’t overplay their hands. They don’t emote. David Garner’s strap routine is impressive, as is Marnie Palomares’ solo.
Garry Stewart’s choreography begins as a stylised and extreme form of break dancing. It’s all so agonisingly and unrelievedly literal, though sustained to the point of exhaustion, making a point of sorts.
Six near-naked performers -- four men, two women -- stride onto the stage at the start of the piece and dress in front of us: orange prison jump-suits and runners. Incomprehensibly, they have shoe laces. (Yes, there have been hangings at Gitmo, the first three happened in June this year -- men from Saudi Arabia and Yemen -- but sheets and clothing were used.) Black hoods were donned.
No attempt was made to distinguish jailer from jailed, fellow inmate from torturer. Actually, there wasn’t much attempt to distinguish Camp Delta from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Not that the point scoring against US military guards isn’t justified... it’s just lazy.
Instead of hitting its mark, Honour Bound sprays bullets all over the place. Far too many of them are blanks.
Honour Bound. Conceived and directed by Nigel Jamieson. Choreographed by Garry Stewart. Designed by Nigel Jamieson and Nicholas Dare. Costumes by Genevieve Dugard. Music and sound design by Paul Charlier. Lighting by Damien Cooper. Video by Scott Otto Anderson. Presented by Malthouse Theatre and the Sydney Opera House.