NZ Arts Festival 2008, TSB Arena
March 13-16 | Reviewed by Melody Nixon

THE POWERFUL imagery of Honour Bound does not fade until long after the lights and sound-scape have died down, and the screes of viewers have left the space of TSB Arena. With this physical, mediated theatre piece The Sydney Opera House and Malthouse Theatre have together turned a tightly tuned, emotive and gripping work in which the sense of injustice is tangible, and nobody is exempted from its driven touch.

Conceiver and Director Nigel Jamieson created Honour Bound while its subject – Australian David Hicks – was still being held without trial in Guatanamo Bay. As a result the dance / new media / aerial acrobatic mélange has a fiery and aggressive passion, one which seeks to wake up and activate audience members. The lighting design by Damien Cooper also skillfully accentuates the idea of public accountability and shines spotlights – much like those used by searching helicopters – direct into viewers’ faces.

All seven performers manage a combined fluidity of movement, while displaying varying interpretations and skills. David Garner is particularly impressive in his Chinese straps routine, as are Alexandra Harrison and Marnie Palomares in their bouts of synchronised dance. The greatest harmony between dancer/performer and new medium occurs when an aerial performer (possibly Paul Zivkovich) runs slow motion, nightmare-like up a vertical screen of words – a speech by Donald Rumsfeld, or the details of the Geneva Convention – and then spirals through the air backwards as the words twist and confuse, contradict themselves, and seek to break his body.

Moments of awkwardness and discomfort are stretched beyond conventional time limits, to give a meta-theatrical sense of the distress Guatanamo prisoners are experiencing. A sharp latticework of horizontal and vertical lines brings viewers closer, and then further away from the cage dwelling that has been constructed on stage. This intricate and moving cage, co-designed by Nicholas Dare and Nigel Jamieson, holds the performers vice like, as though rats, inducing them to crazed states of fear and anxiety. These prisoners crawl through varying projected images and phrases, the most affecting of which a series abstract nouns – resistance, honour, human rights – which send them scaling the sides of their cage and spiraling through the air, buffeted by the weight of the words.

Honour Bound is a truly affecting and engaging piece, and achieves its political ends most effectively through its energetic, stylised visual means. Here’s hoping it tours to other Western states, especially those with governments complicit with the United States’ so-called ‘war on terror.’