Wednesday 8 May 2019

The Honouring review

In his solo work The Honouring, emerging performer Jack Sheppard (Kurtjar people, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York) combines movement, dialogue and puppetry to explore how a person’s spirit or soul can be prevented from moving on when culture does not recognise it. With some impressive design elements, it is a performance that doesn’t shy away from exposing pain or grief while still retaining an air of hope and peace.

Sheppard shines when he uses his body to tell this story and he throws himself into the powerful choreography. Paired with the history of ritual, it is captivating to see how Sheppard chooses to express the emotions and issues that arise from suicide as a First Nations person.

However, there are moments when the show becomes too performative and loses the integrity that the The Honouring achieves at other times. The self-harming scene feels overplayed and almost unnecessary given the story that is being told. His portrayal of the “black dog” to highlight his depression also lessens the effect of the work. Given that there is also a silhouette of a black dog projected onto a screen at the same time, it would be interesting to see how Sheppard interacts with the dog and vice versa, rather than being the black dog.

The design elements showcase the strength of each creative and their ability to create an environment that is wholly supportive of Sheppard’s performance. Tim Denton’s puppetry adds a haunting characteristic to The Honouring, giving a physical presence to Sheppard’s mourning. Sheppard’s movement and interaction with the puppets ensure that they are more than just a prop, that they are symbolic of the loss that is felt for those who must deal with the aftermath of a suicide. Similarly, Denton’s set aesthetics bring forth ideas of relationships to land and how these affect our lives.

From the opening sound arrangement of sirens blaring and a racing heart-beating rhythm, James Henry’s design constantly evolves and develops with the themes presented throughout The Honouring. Along with the lighting by Rachel Rui Qian Lee, they elicit a moving but intense response that envelops the audience. 

The Honouring is more than a touching and thoughtful work on suicide and death from a First Nations perspective. It’s a complex and intelligent look at how culture can be influenced by suicide and how that culture could – or should – recognise the spirits of the people they have lost.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St. Carlton. 
Season: until 11 May | 7:30pm
Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc 
Bookings: La Mama Theatre 

Photo Credit: James Henry

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