Saturday, March 05, 2011

she needs a name

She Has a Name
I wasn't quite prepared for what I was getting myself into, seeing this play. Of course I knew that a play about human trafficking was not going to be light fare, but I didn't realize quite how hard-hitting those two hours were going to be.

I began watching She Has a Name in my usual way, by scrutinizing the set while waiting for the actors to take the stage. It was a simple set, one befitting the black box space of the Epcor Centre's Motel. A backdrop curtain depicted a family, somewhere in South East Asia, smiling and looking out the open door of their simple thatched hut. The curtain was crudely ripped in half, providing an entrance-way to the backstage, and effectively separating the teenaged daughter from the rest of her family, her outstretched arms which once held her little brother, now empty. The foreshadowing was undeniable.

There is nothing subtle about burnt thicket theatre's production of She Has a Name, but of course there is nothing subtle about the horrors of human trafficking and sexual slavery. The story centres around Jason, a Canadian lawyer working undercover amongst the brothels of Bangkok, painstakingly gathering evidence to build a legal case against human trafficking. When he gains the trust of a young prostitute known only as Number 18, hoping for her testimony against those who hold her against her will, he puts her already shockingly brutal existence into jeopardy.

This is a tough play to watch. It is heartbreaking and haunting, it fills you with rage and helplessness, you want to cling to the belief that this is just a play. But it's not.

The performance that we attended was followed by a panel discussion on human trafficking. The playwright, a representative from the International Justice Mission (a human rights organization working to end slavery), and a representative from Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (which addresses issues of human trafficking within Alberta) shared their experiences and answered our questions about an issue that most of us have never even thought about.

But with 27 million people enslaved in the world today, nearly a million of whom are trafficked into the sex trade every year, how can we not think about it? How can we not act?

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Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Sounds like an amazing play. Good for you for pointing out its sad reality.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It was a very powerful play, Cathy, one which profoundly affected the audience. A great example of using creativity to deliver a message.