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