It's not a question of authority, it's a question of will. - George W. Bush
A short performance commissioned for RealTime's The Party of the Decade
You have been warned.
At this line in the sand, an army of performers will deploy weapons of self-destruction.
Be alert and alarmed.
Be shocked and awed.
Be here now.
June 2004. On a bare stage in Redfern, Sydney, Australia, US President George Bush begins speaking a remix of his 2002 State of the Union address with the backing of a menacing guitar riff. He asks rhetorically:
"How will we fight and win this war?"
As he speaks ten performers from the performance group version 1.0 enter, each carrying a bottle of wine, a glass, and a bottle opener. They stand in a straight line facing the audience. Their gaze is directly forward, each intently eyeballing at an individual audience member. No one smiles. As President Bush forcefully demands war on Iraq to eliminate what are now known to be fictional weapons of mass destruction, the soundtrack switches abruptly to a US soldier’s enthusiastic description of his weaponry - armour-piercing rounds, explosive rounds, and grenades.
The performers open their wine bottles. They fill their glasses, toast the audience, and begin drinking. By the second glass, President Bush’s voice returns, becoming a litany of righteous indignation at the evil of these weapons of mass destruction. At the centre of the line, one performer has a bottle roughly taped around his head, and drips wine down his sleeves to fill his glass cupped in both hands in front of him, grimacing painfully.
Is this a bizarre, ridiculous and disturbing echo of the Abu Ghraib torture photographs? Is it a cruel joke? If it is, then no one is laughing. What would it be to laugh at such imagery? The performers continue to drink steadily, glass after glass, saying nothing, never removing their eyes from their chosen audience member. As if to say: we don’t want to do this, but we will do our duty. As if to say: we do this for you. As if to say: you are part of this. You are cannot avoid responsibility simply by sitting passively in the dark.
They continue drinking until the bottles are empty. President Bush finishes his speech to enormous applause, continually building in intensity. As the recorded applause reaches its peak, the line up of performers exit silently with their now empty bottles. Is this what political theatre in Australia has become - the relentless, grim faced, and ridiculous deployment of weapons of self-destruction? Is this all political theatre can do in the face of neo-conservative triumph - drink itself into a stupor?
This performance occured at Performance Space on June 12, 2004
Performed by: Danielle Antaki, Nikki Heywood, Stephen Klinder, Shireen Magsalin, Matt McCoy, Cheneoh Miller, Deborah Pollard, Harley Stumm, Yana Taylor, Rohan Thatcher, and David Williams.
Music by: Tom Compagnoni
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