Sunday, September 17, 2006

One for Abe Pogos... a literal heavyweight takes on a metaphorical one

Over at Theatre Notes, Alison Croggon has posted a terrific review -- passionate and eloquent -- of Honour Bound, Nigel Jamieson and Garry Stewart’s account of the mistreatment of Adelaide boy David Hicks at Guantánamo Bay.

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.

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Blogger Alison Croggon said...

I like arguments, and thanks for stirring the pot. But me, a heavyweight? You're the one the Fin Review...

8:07 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

If only people worthy of weighty roles got to fill them! What a world that would be!

The arts sections of our broadsheets would be expansive, generous of spirit, and hungry for passionate, committed, daring, truthful and challenging experiences. (And they'd also be kicking down your door, bidding for your services.)


5:07 AM  
Blogger Alison Croggon said...

Not much door-kicking going on here. But we can dream and make an alernative utopia of our own...

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Abe Pogos said...

Alison, Chris

I expected a bit of a stoush. Some low level bloodletting, at least a bit of name calling, but I guess that was too much to hope for. Even when you guys have a major disagreement you end up sounding like a mutual admiration society.

I'm very disillusioned.

(Sure, the discussion of HB at Alison's blog is extremely challenging and interesting and makes me want to see the show for myself, but I still think one of you could let down the tyres of the other's car or something.)

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Pogos. If you are so comfortable with debate less pissing in pockets and more posting. I followed this thread because I thought hello this seems exciting so I'm a bit peeved that I end up here and find that to fill in the other half of the argument I'd have to buy the sun herald (bit difficult where I live). However I thank you for the oppurtunity of signing off as...
Disgusted of Moonee Ponds.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Hey, Disgusted, why is it so frickin' hard to get a Herald Sun in Moonee Ponds? There are only 600,000 copies kicking around Victoria. Hell, they'll have six at your local Maccas... you don't even have to buy one. I'll let you know when to look.

And Abe, who said anything about the admiration being reciprocated?!

More bodily fluids here, I reckon, than an Andres Serrano photograph.

4:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Signing off as Disgusted of Moonee Ponds doesn't mean I live there at the moment. Come on Boyd put your money where your fingers are and type something more in the way of solids re Honour Bound.

Disgusted of no fixed abode (but completely outside of the Sun Herald catchment)

6:21 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

There's this thing called a contributor's agreement. The Herald Sun pays me for a review, they get to run it first... whenever they have the space (and inclination) to. So you'll have to be patient, El Disgusto.

I've already made a few points at Theatre Notes (and lost a few cos of blogger hassles).

7:12 AM  
Anonymous genevieve said...

Sorry, disgusted, but I agree with Chris. There canna be a single spot in Victoria where you canna get the Hun. Come on....If you are desperate to read it all, log in to the ANZ Newstand database from your local library. You should be able to do that from home.
Agreed, Chris is being a bit of a tease about this. But NO HUN near you? I don't believe it.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is the net. my permanent address is usually the ether, but when I need a bottle of milk I usually come to a land in a place in which there is no herald sun (this place is called europe...have no intentions of being more specific for I'm a contrary cove and like to keep my business my business) Also the aforementioned rag doesn't publish its reviews on line because cultural elites should not be again...Publish Boyd or be damned.

Disgusted with everything.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Alright, alright. As soon as the thing's on the streets (there's a bit of a backlog just now) I'll post it here, just for the D-man.

And, Genevieve, I can vouch for the fact that "disgusted with everything" is possibly also disgusted with Southern Europe just now. :)

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Fairly contented of Fitzroy though currently staying with friends in Elwood said...

Dear Disgusted,

A review of Honour Bound appeared today in the Sunday Herald Sun. It got five (out of five) stars and the reviewer concluded by saying...It is everything theatre should be—dazzling, passionate, thought-provoking, inspiring and humbling.

I hope that's a help.

Also Chris, technically you can spray blanks. A blank usually involves a compacted wad of paper inserted into a cartridge to keep the powder in place. When the gun is fired the paper disintegrates effectively spraying into the air as the wad leaves the chamber. In the seventies a famous US TV actor died when he pointed a gun at his temple and pulled the trigger as a practical joke. With the chamber actually touching his head the wad had no time to disintegrate and hit him with a force comparable to a live bullet.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous contrary mary said...

so that's where the expression shooting your wad comes from!

3:31 AM  
Anonymous f.c.o.f.t.c.s.w.f.i.e. said...

Dear Contrary Mary

I found this explanation of the origins of "shooting your wad" on another blog. I can't vouch for its accuracy but it sounds plausible.

"...the term “shoot your wad” or “I shot my wad” originally is referenced to the days when muzzle loaders (guns) used a “wad” of some type of cloth material to retain the charge of gunpowder and shot in their guns. Since it was a pain to reload, the shooter was generally very careful not to waste his “wad” on a poor shot or something not worth shooting (you get my meaning?)..."

A variation sposted by another blogger suggested that soldiers in their haste to fire in the heat of battle sometimes dropped or forgot to load the actual ball in the gun barrel. So instead of firing a shot, they literally were "shooting their wad".

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wots all this wad nonsense are we a delinquent chapter of the National Rifle Association. I've still got my beadies on you Boyd.

Digusted with Squid

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

satiated but still disgusted (especially with root vegetables)

8:44 AM  

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