Three white cloaked figures move in and out of the set, whispering layers of thought from behind the scared eyes of Number 18 – a fifteen-year-old prostitute being forced to work in Bangkok. The rise of music and emotional of the small five member cast of the play She Has a Name has people in the audience standing by the end of the show, clapping hard, speechless.
She Has a Name, on now during the Vancouver Fringe Festival, is without a doubt the most worthwhile piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. It elegantly mixes the heart wrenching horror of sex slavary with the real-life difficulties of heroism.
Jason (Carl Kennedy), a detective from Canada, has left his wife and children at home to gather evidence in Bangkok to put a case together and shut down the brothels who are trafficking underaged girls. During his visits to the brothels he encounters Number 18 (Evelyn Chew), who, for small payments of 100 baht, will reveal pieces of her history – where she came from, where she’s worked, how old she was when she started working (ten).
Their delivery was so remarkable that the 90-minute play passed easily, delivering itself into the position of the single best piece of theatre, film, or art that I have seen on this difficult subject.
Unlike some politically bent theatre, it doesn’t leave the audience feeling guilty – only sincerely touched, moved to learn more about the travesty of human trafficking. The audience has a point in which they can relate – Jason, too, struggles with the choice to work the case over being at home with his family. Of seeing the rapes of under aged girls taking place in bars to seeing them barely able to walk on his visits to their rooms to gather evidence. His wife begs him to come home.
They have been moved by the hard truth of numbers: That 800,000 people annually are trafficked across national borders, a figure that doesn’t include the millions trafficked within their own countries. The 10 million children worldwide forced to be part of the sex industry, and the 1 million children, mostly girls, who become prostitutes. And that every year a sex trafficker can earn an average of $280000 a year from every victim under their control (because unlike drugs, people can be consumed more than once).
She Has a Name plays in Vancouver at the Firehall Arts Theatre as part of the Fringe Festival until September 16. You can also see it in Kelowna, September 18-21; Edmonton, September 25-30; and Red Deer, October 2-6. It has been touring since May, but with your help may be able to tour longer.
Photo by Kelsey Krogman.