Prisoner at the World's End by RJohns - La Mama Theatre

Prisoner at the World's End by RJohns - La Mama Theatre

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Posted 2023-11-18 by Mistress of Culture Vulturesfollow

Wed 15 Nov 2023 - Sun 26 Nov 2023

Prisoner at the World's End by R.Johns - La Mama Theatre

Prisoner at the World's End is a new work written by R.Johns exploring the plight of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, as he awaits extradition to the U.S. from his London prison cell.

Book your tickets for a live performance or livestream broadcast .

Left to right Maureen Hartley, Joanne Davis, and Romy McIllroy - photo by Darren Gill

Three women from three different generations are volunteers who make sandwiches and sell cups of tea to visitors to His Majesty's Prison Belmarsh where Assange is held. They are concerned and fascinated by Julian, about who he is, why he is in prison, and what will happen to him next.

Left to right Maureen Hartley, Joanne Davis, and Romy McIllroy - photo by Darren Gill

The Baby Boomer (Maureen Hartley) is a conservative Christian who lived through the London Blitz. Gen X (Joanne Davis) is here out of a sense of justice for humanity while Gen Z (Romy McIllroy) is here to experience, express, and experiment. The women question each other's motives for volunteering – to fulfil religious beliefs, out of a sense of justice, or ‘because it's a cool thing to do'.

Sepideh Karimi - photo by Darren Gill

Running in parallel to this narrative is the story of a woman (Sepideh Karimi) who escaped from Mosul during the Iraq war. Assange was arrested on charges of illegally obtaining, receiving and publishing classified documents about war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan to the world on his online platform WikiLeaks. The central conflict in the play is whether Assange is a hero or a criminal. Should he be freed or punished?

Left to right Joanne Davis, Maureen Hartley, and Romy McIllroy - photo by Darren Gill

A further provocation the play explores is what is Australia's role in saving Assange. The play points a finger at Australians' worship of sporting heroes, over 'intellectual' heroes. Whether Assange is an 'intellectual' hero is another contention (to be explored in a sequel perhaps). Have Australian citizens forgotten about Assange? Do they care at all?

Left to right Joanne Davis, Maureen Hartley, and Romy McIllroy - photo by Darren Gill

The highlight of this play is when the women portray the different cats at the UK Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street . Prior to his imprisonment at Belmarsh, Assange had a pet 'bowtie' cat living with him at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The cats give their perspective on Assange's situation, given the many political conversations they have witnessed at 10 Downing Street over many years. This is a clever choice by co-directors Elnaz Sheshgelani and Rosemary Johns and provides light relief to the intense discussion.

Left to right Maureen Hartley, Joanne Davis, and Romy McIllroy - photo by Darren Gill

However, after this scene, the play loses momentum (and potentially the audience) as it becomes more 'Kafkaesque' . For the uninitiated, this is where the reality of Assange's situation is merged with the surreal to create an imagined reality. Although this choice refers to Assange's enforced silence with an inability to express his reality (which is psychological torture for a journalist), it does not always work on stage. Venturing into the abstract(particularly Kafka) limits the ability of the play to reach a broad and diverse audience (i.e. those who do not know Kafka) and dilutes the central provocation. However, it may provoke the audience to ask more questions or research Assange's plight further post-performance. If this is the intention of the play, then the direction of the storytelling needs to reflect this intention more clearly.

A big shout out to the performers in this work - as it is physically and emotionally challenging. This multi-talented cast gives their all in bringing the Assange story to life. The production design (Peter Mumford) and sound design (Robert Vincs) to emulate the prison is immaculately executed through clever lighting and projection techniques (Simon Bowland, Jade Hibbert)and excellent stage management (CatBaud) of a host of theatrical properties in a tiny space.

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267414 - 2023-10-28 23:54:25

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