The 75 inescapable minutes you spend watching the verbatim accounts of Iranian refugees held on Manus and Nauru are a painful reminder of Australia’s cruel offshore detention policy.
Created with the help of Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been held on Manus Island since 2013, Manus is the story of Boochani and seven other Iranian refugees sent to detention centres in Manus and Nauru by the Australian government. Performed by actors from Iran’s Verbatim Theatre Group, including director Nazanin Sahamizadeh, the verbatim accounts are devastatingly brutal as they list conditions, experiences and events that no human should be subjected to.
Using only red jerry cans as props, the actors detail the refugees’ reasons for fleeing Iran before they describe their harrowing journeys to Australia via people smugglers, their capture and imprisonment on Manus and Nauru, which is made all the disturbing by the constant rain that pours onto the stage to mirror the unforgiving tropical climates of Manus and Nauru.
There is no escaping the horror, no comic relief or light touches: torture, assault, self-immolation, mental degradation and brutal protests (hunger strikes and sewn lips) are detailed. Their accounts are only interrupted by tone-deaf justifications of mandatory detention from Australian politicians broadcasted onto the stage.
At times heavy handed, Manus, nonetheless, feels like a desperate plea to Australians to wake up to the horrors taking place far from our prying eyes. Manus is as unforgiving and brutal as Australia’s offshore detention policy.
Manus was performed at AC Arts on Saturday, March 9