Review: Tribunal (Powerhouse Youth Theatre / Griffin Theatre Company)

pytVenue: SBW Stables Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Aug 12 – 20, 2016
Concept: Karen Therese
Collaborators/text/performers: Sarah Coconis, Paul Dwyer, Iman Etri, Katie Green, Rhonda Grovenor Dixon, Bilal Hafda, Mahdi Mohammadi, Karen Therese, Jawad Yaqoubi
Image by Gracie Partridge

Theatre review
Any story can be told at the theatre, whether exaggerated or realistic, but to create something convincing is often a struggle for practitioners. In Tribunal, key personalities play themselves, leaving no room for us to doubt their authenticity. The presentation is a discussion of colonialism in Australia, with a particular focus on our habitual mistreatment through the years, of groups that are systematically subjugated and persecuted by a rapacious government, and its complicit populace. The production places side by side, an Aboriginal elder and an Iranian refugee, not only to convey the injustices inflicted upon them, but also to emphasise the delusionary insistence by White Australia of the land’s Westernness and its racist exclusion of all that it considers “other”.

Our weathered sensibilities may no longer be able to react with shock at the show’s revelations, but its verbatim, anecdotal format is unquestionably powerful, due especially to the sheer presence of those who have suffered under our cruelty. The act of putting on display their pain and damage, creates a palpable state of emergency and crisis that we simply cannot extricate ourselves from. In the guise of a tribunal hearing, the production turns its passive audience into the awakened body politic; we are all implicated in these harrowing recounts, no matter how long ago or how far away these events had taken place. Powerless individuals who shirk responsibility are, for the moment at least, given passionate idealism, and the audience begins to think about its part, as citizens involved in the machinations contributing to the humanitarian catastrophes that must be addressed.

We may not all run off into the night with radical courses of action inspired by Tribunal, but it sows the seeds required for a nation to evolve stronger morals and to inculcate better humanitarian values into its every decision, especially the tough ones. Bringing people from abstract consciousness, into a real life sharing of space, is theatrical magic that can do wonders to how we experience society. It is easy being inhumane to those who only live in imagination, but when confronted face to face, we can only be guided by compassion and love, which are after all, the most valued of all our qualities as the earth’s beings.