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Type: Book chapter
Title: The Breath of Another: Mediated Testimony in the Play Manus
Author: Szorenyi, A.
Citation: Performance, Resistance and Refugees, 2023 / Little, S., Suliman, S., Wake, C. (ed./s), Ch.2, pp.35-52
Publisher: Routledge
Publisher Place: Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK
Issue Date: 2023
Series/Report no.: Routledge Advances in Theatre & Performance Studies
ISBN: 9780367696696
Editor: Little, S.
Suliman, S.
Wake, C.
Statement of
Anna Szörényi
Abstract: The play Manus, directed by Iranian Nazanin Sahamizadeh and performed by Verbatim Theatre Group, is based on witness accounts from those incarcerated on Manus Island. Sahamizadeh developed the script in collaboration with Behrouz Boochani and other prisoners via mobile phone. In the play actors speak the words previously spoken by prisoners (in Persian with English surtitles), at times with imagery of the prison projected onto their bodies. The actors’ bodies are thus staged as both conduits for the ‘voice’ of prisoners, and as living, shaky, projector screens, emphasising the mediated and unstable nature of the performance. This paper draws on ethical concepts from Judith Butler and Emmanuel Levinas to explore the ethical relations between prisoners, actors and audiences that result, as the voice of one is spoken through the breath of another. Through a spoken emphasis on relationality, the use of bodies as screens, and recurrent performances of interrupted breath, the play stages proximity, relationality and distance. It thus both highlights voice, embodiment and affect, and at the same time painfully fractures them: giving a sense of the presence of the prisoners, yet emphasising their fragility and absence. In the Adelaide performance this staging, perhaps inevitably, led the audience to audibly sob, unable to catch their own breaths. In this shared discontinuity of breath can appear something about the vulnerability of bodies as they become implicated in one another’s lives, and something about the violence that keeps them apart, unable to share breath, separated by the borders of the camp.
Rights: © 2023 Informa UK Limited
DOI: 10.4324/9781003142782-4
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Appears in Collections:Media Studies publications

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