Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson takes the stage

April 19, 2015
Geoffrey Robertson at home in London.

Geoffrey Robertson at home in London. Photo: Kitty Gale

The Sydney Morning Herald of 17 April 2015 announces a series of public performances “Dreaming Too Loud” by the well-known British-Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. They will take place at Sydney’s City Recital Hall on 2 May, in Perth on 4 May, at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on 5 May, in Adelaide on 8 May, Brisbane on 12 May and Canberra on 13 May.

A barrister entertaining a theatre audience? Well, the introductory piece (see some extracts below) certainly makes it sound like a very interesting event and I would not mind attending if Australia were just a bit closer! Also the proceeds go to two human rights NGOs including the International Service for Human Rights.

About his own performance: “Dr Johnson’s comment after watching a performing dog walking on its hind legs: it’s not that it’s done well, it’s the fact that it’s done at all“.

It will be an opportunity to explain the importance of human rights and how Australia might better contribute to them. I can reminisce about my own visits to death row and my times with torturers, and bring the latest news from the Ecuadorian Embassy.[Robertson was Assange’s lawyer] But I can also tell tales of Linda Lovelace and Mike Tyson and the Sex Pistols, and others I have defended.  It will not be a night of doom and gloom, so long as I can suppress my tendency to talk about the Australian Constitution.


I have played roles in front of large audiences. During the run of Hypotheticals on the ABC, I was a man of many parts – General Bulldoza, Sergeant Doberman, Senator Gladhand, Amanda Autocue, Lester Gallop, Judge Knott, Kerry Murfax. Those names worked to avoid libel writs from the identities on whom they were based. For younger readers, incidentally, Hypotheticals were unrehearsed Socratic dialogues in which sixteen or so luminaries would sit around a horseshoe table and play themselves in imaginary scenarios of my devising. I had John Howard sit on the toilet, wondering whether to rub out the racist graffiti on the cubicle door or complain to the attendant, who was Charlie Perkins. I had George Pell give the kiss of life to a gay man, and Gareth Evans invaded Tasmania. ..

Hypotheticals was meant to challenge the 60 Minutes adage that “if it’s not visual, it’s not a story”. The important decisions in the real world are seldom set against glorious sunsets. They are made by people (usually men) in suits, with notebooks, sitting around a table in a nondescript room, with a few potted plants and a picture of the incumbent President – the momentousness of the decision is generally in an inverse relationship to the splendour of the surroundings in which it is made. Hence the Hypotheticals stage, with its table and notepads, must approximate to the workaday world, where an editor or take-over merchant or torturer selects the next victim. The object of the programme was to show how important decisions are made, in a way never revealed in studio interviews or press conferences.

Dreaming Too Loud will have neither props nor glorious sunsets. My thespian debut will be sandwiched between work assignments – an effort to reclaim the Elgin Marbles, lectures on the Armenian genocide and the defence of the former Prime Minister of Mauritius.


Geoffrey Robertson’s Dreaming Too Loud: a barrister takes the stage.

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