Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“Last Resort is the alternative future for Guantanamo Bay. You’ll sit in a deckchair, you’ll get a rum cocktail on arrival and you’ll feel the sand between your toes. Performed in a secret enclave in the Summerhall basement, 2Magpies Theatre will take you through the tropical haze on a unique multi-sensory package holiday. This is an extraordinary rendition and it is all-inclusive. The waterboarding has stopped, the noise has been turned down and the base has been reclaimed as a holiday destination. Our imagined future for Guantanamo Bay is a menacing fiction, made entirely of unimaginable fact.”
“Welcome to Last Resort, we hope you enjoy your stay.” We are handed Cuba Libre cocktails as we walk in and encouraged to take off our shoes and relax our feet into the small mound of sand underneath our deck chair. Our guides (played by devisers of the piece Tom Barnes and Eve Parmiter) are cheerful and welcoming, but there’s an edge of tension beneath the friendliness from the outset. It’s Tom’s first day at Guantanamo Bay resort, and his encouraging supervisor has a steely edge to her supportive demeanour. The tasks Tom has to complete are more and more uncomfortable as the show goes on, until I have a strong urge to stand up and stop what is happening. This is undoubtedly the point.
Last Resort presents the future of the infamous prison Guantanamo Bay, where terror suspects are detained without trial, as a holiday resort. As the programme tells us, this isn’t as ridiculous as you might think – there is actually already a holiday resort in Guantanamo Bay’s military base today for use by US military personnel and their families. As we engage in activities you would imagine on a resort holiday – stretching, meditation, bingo, drinking games, a disco – the not-so-subtle metaphor of relaxing holiday activities representing forms of torture emerges. Despite the lack of subtlety, Last Resort is an intelligent and highly uncomfortable meditation on the place of a prison like Guantanamo Bay in modern society. We’re no longer in the dark ages, so why are these practices of torture still taking place?
With engaging performances from Barnes and Parmiter who share fascinating but terrifying information about US and UK counter terrorism policies, this immersive experience is informative as well as entertaining. There’s always the fear you’ll be picked on (and you probably will) so this isn’t a show for those who don’t like their theatre challenging and interactive. An invitation to discuss our response to a question as a group fell a little flat in my quiet midday audience, but I could imagine this would sometimes turn into a lively debate. This section could have been pushed further – it would be interesting to question people on their responses to the provocation offered, particularly in audiences which aren’t already discussing their opinions with the group as a whole, rather than just the person they came with. Several people on my side of the room seemed confused as to whether the question asked pertained to government policy or their personal opinion – further clarification and challenge of the audience at this point would make this already political piece even more so.
2Magpies Theatre are making important work and have created a clever concept to get their message across in a way which is still enjoyable for the audience – walking that fine line between information and entertainment with finesse.