Sydney Opera House & Malthouse Theatre, Honour Bound

Review in Issue 20-1 | Spring 2008

Six years after it was first established, and despite worldwide condemnation of its appalling human rights violations, the US military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba remains open. This new piece from director Nigel Jamieson and choreographer Garry Stewart explores the story of one detainee, Australian national David Hicks, who spent more than five years at the camp.

Set in a giant metal cage, the production fuses contemporary dance-theatre with aerial work and video projection. The biting physicality of the choreography is uncomfortable to watch, each twist and shuddering contortion evoking a new misery inflicted on a helpless prisoner. Scenes of sexual violence perpetrated by the prison’s female guards are particularly harrowing.

But there are ellipses here. First that despite the power and strength of the physical performance and visual imagery, the production lacked the unequivocal statements that are so badly needed in the fight to close Guantánamo. At the same time, there was an unnerving lack of balance in the telling of Hicks’ tale. Narrated mainly through the testimony of his parents, his story was presented in almost uncompromisingly sympathetic tones. Carefully chosen excerpts from letters, Pentagon documents and news footage support a view of Hicks as an entirely innocent victim. This is perhaps not a wild exaggeration – many prisoners in Guantánamo appear to have committed no crime – but the decision not to tell of how or why Hicks came to be captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan undermined the production’s credibility.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2007

This article in the magazine

Issue 20-1
p. 34