Honour Bound

TSB Arena, Queens Wharf, Wellington

13/03/2008 - 16/03/2008

New Zealand International Arts Festival

Production Details

Electrifying audiences in Australia, the UK and Europe, Honour Bound pushes the limits of live performance with its hyper-athletic and agile aerial work. Nigel Jamieson’s award-winning production raises crucial questions about the balance between the pursuit of national security and the protection of human rights.

Set in an eight-metre-high metal cage, Honour Bound fuses aerial acrobatics, dance, theatre and film to tell the story of Australian David Hicks and his five-year incarceration without trial at Guantanamo Bay. Told through the eyes of Hicks’ parents, Honour Bound is a deep and personal journey combining a soundscape of phrases from moving testimonies, excerpts of letters and official documents with a cascade of projected images of Guantanamo Bay and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Nigel Jamieson is a theatrical visionary responsible for some of the world’s most enthralling large-scale productions such as the Tin Symphony for the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Honour Bound won three awards at the Sydney Theatre Awards, including Best New Australian Work.

Exceptional and unforgettable, Honour Bound is a production of rare intelligence and power.


13 Mar 8:30pm (Thu)
14 Mar 8:30pm Fri)
15 Mar 8:30pm (Sat)
16 Mar 7:00pm (Sun)

Pricing  (excl. service fees)
A $69.50
A Friend $64.50
B $59.50
B Friend $54.50

Duration: 70 mins, no interval 

Venue: TSB Bank Arena

Performed and co-devised by
: DJ Garner, Alexandra Harrison, David Mueller, Marnie Palomares, Brendan Shelper, Paul White  

Co-design Nicholas Dare
Lighting design Damien Cooper
Video artistry Scott Otto Anderson
Costumes Genevieve Dugard    

1 hr 10mins, no interval

Potent theatre of indictment: not to be missed or dismissed

Review by John Smythe 14th Mar 2008

One advantage of enduring entrenched conservative governments is that their anti-humanitarian activities can provoke powerful theatre. Without the Howard government in Australia, for instance, the world might never have seen Hannie Rayson’s Two Brothers (about The Lucky Country’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers), or Nigel Jamieson’s Honour Bound, which takes the David Hicks story as an example of the atrocities perpetrated at the detention centre in the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Detained from 17 December 2001 to 20 May 2007 without trial, then moved to an Adelaide prison until his release on 29 December 2007, after pleading guilty before a US military tribunal to a newly codified charge of "providing material support for terrorism", David Hicks is one of the lucky ones because he had family – his father Terry and stepmother Bev – and other advocates on the outside, pleading his cause.  [Click here to read his affidavit.]

"Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" is the motto of the Joint Task Force charged with running the Guantánamo detention centre. But here we find honour bound, black-hooded and consigned to a very dark place while detainees (the Bush administration has decreed they are not prisoners of war and therefore not protected by the Geneva Convention) are subjected to regimes of systematic torture, sanctioned by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to win their co-operation and extract supposedly credible ‘information’ and evidence’. Yeah right.

So apart from the routine 10-hour ‘interrogations’ and a full range of monstrous strategies designed – by military psychologists, presumably – to demolish pride and ego, and induce a sense of futility, Islamic detainees witness the desecration of the Holy Koran and are sexually taunted by female guards who smear them with their fake menstrual blood to make them feel unclean and abandoned by their God.

Why? So that they think their only friends in the world are their interrogators. What? Those military psychologists need their heads read. Seriously.

A dance-based, acrobatic, multi-media work, Honour Bound is ‘Theatre of Indictment’. Even assuming some of the detainees are genuine terrorists, it clearly exposes how the activities at Guantánamo breach key Articles of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below), without which all law and war is devoid of any moral foundation.

In just 70 minutes, the issues traversed above, the David Hicks story and the experiences of all inmates of Guantánamo are evoked for our edification. And in this context it seems perverse to complain again about the horribly crammed seating at the TSB Arena (even though my ability to scribble surreptitious notes was severely compromised).

In a huge metal mesh cage, six dancers (4m, 2f) don orange overalls as the streaming text and spoken words of the Articles wash over them. These words become a recurring motif, most memorably forming a highway to infinity along which a harnessed dancer attempts to make progress, only to tumble backwards, losing as much if not more ground than he has gained at every attempt. The final break up of the text into a disconnected and meaningless jumble makes a powerful statement.

As choreographed by Garry Stewart in collaboration with the dancers – DJ Garner, Alexandra Harrison, David Mueller, Marnie Palomares, Brendan Shelper (the Aerial Coordinator) and Paul White – they variously use the floor, mesh walls, aerial lines and two hanging straps to convey isolation, despair, hope, fear, entrapment, torment, brutality, pain, degradation, numbness … and tenderness, in one marvellously contrasting mind-float sequence involving David and a one-time girlfriend who has written letters.

Their work offers a profound paradox, as the magnificent potential of the human body is utilised to explore and express the total degradation of the human spirit.

A small cage within the large cage is moved forward into isolation, then back to merge anonymously with the other, to extraordinary visual effect, especially when it is part of the screen for abstract projections (Nigel Jamieson, who conceived of the work and directed it, shares the design credit with Nicholas Dare; Damien Cooper is the dynamic lighting designer and the video artist is Scott Otto Anderson).

Mixed in with Paul Charlier’s powerful composition and sound design are the voices of the Declaration, Australian politicians, Donald Rumsfeld, George W Bush, the girlfriend and David’s parents, whose talking heads are also projected at times, proving what an ordinary Aussie couple they are.

It all adds up to an extremely potent combination. How lucky we are to be able to engage with this content at every level then stroll off into the balmy night … Honour Bound takes us to a hidden part of our 21st century world of fear-based politics, where the values of civilization are obscenely turned on their heads in the names of ‘Good’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘God’.

Not to be missed or dismissed.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Article 11: Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until presumed guilty.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Make a comment

Daring assault on walls of steel

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 14th Mar 2008

Honour Bound is the most startlingly daring piece of theatre in the Festival, combining as it does documentary theatre, dance, agile aerial work, and amazing video technology.

This 70 minute piece begins with some of the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being read as six semi-clad individuals are turned into prisoners wearing the familiar orange jumpsuits as an eight metre high steel cage surrounds them. A figure is thrown into a small cage and onto the cage is projected a video of an interview with the prisoner’s mother, Bev Hicks.

She and Terry Hicks are seen again at times briefly commenting on their reaction to their son David’s  arrest in Afghanistan, his treatment at the hands of the Americans, his incarceration at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, and the complete lack of concern for him by the Australian government. 

The motto of the task force in charge of Guantanamo and its prisoners is: ‘Honour bound to defend freedom.’ Their defence is, as we know, appalling and Honour Bound spares us none of the details as torturer and tortured dance in athletic unison and grotesquely distorted movements across the stage or scale the walls of steel wire or hang suspended high above the stage. 

The most amazing sequence was when a lone prisoner runs up and down the back wall as the Declaration of Human Rights swirls about him until he is drowned in those words made meaningless by Donald Rumsfeld and others.

It is a most sobering production and visually it is outstanding but I was left totally unmoved except for one brief moment. Towards the end when Terry Hicks is interviewed about his visit to see David in Guantanamo, his stoic demeanour falters and he apologizes. Suddenly all the athleticism and the technology were undermined by a human emotion. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council