Mesmerizing, disturbing, powerful and challenging, She Has A Name packs a dramatic and starkly eye-opening punch to say the least.
The production, written by local author Andrew Kooman and directed by Stephen Waldschmidt, opened Wednesday evening at the Scott Block to a sold-out audience. Performances run through Saturday with curtain at 8 p.m.
Calgary-based Burnt Thicket Theatre, in partnership with Raise Their Voice Against Injustice opened the play earlier this month in Calgary’s Epcor Centre.
Winner of the Scripts At Work/Alberta Playwright Network Award in 2009, She Has A Name provides profound insight into human trafficking in South East Asia. The story is based on an incident in Thailand where a storage container transporting more than 100 people ran out of gas and was abandoned. About 50 people lost their lives.
That tragedy was kind of a trigger for the plot which is the story of Jason, a young Canadian lawyer (expertly played by Aaron Krogman) who is fighting to build a legal case against a human trafficking ring in Thailand.
Krogman is recognizable to local audiences, and is outstanding here as well. Alternating between the roles of the earnest Jason and Number 18’s threatening pimp, Krogman’s versatility and skills at nailing varying shades of character shines through at every turn. Jason experiences a spectrum of emotions, from fear to fury to resignation. Krogman brings it all to the surface with complete dedication and focus.
His investigation focuses on ‘Number 18’, a prostitute working in a Bangkok brothel whose testimony could make or break the case. He gradually wins her trust, and as the second half unfolds the dramatic tension escalates to its moving and poignant conclusion. Audiences are left with not only a remarkable and meaningful theatre experience but also much to ponder about the harsh realities of human trafficking.
As ‘18’, Denise Wong is the centre of the production and doesn’t for one moment step back from pouring everything she has into it. It’s impossible not to feel this young woman’s pain as she is trapped in unimaginable horror and abuse. She is isolated and utterly helpless. Wong brings so much heart to the demanding role; it’s absolutely a stunning performance.
Rounding out the cast are Sienna Howell-Holden (Mama), Glenda Warkentin (Marta) and Cari Russell (Ali). All deserves recognition as well, Howell-Holden for her stark portrayal of 18’s depraved ‘boss’, Warkentin as the forceful, determined Marta who is working so hard to make a difference against what appear impossible odds and Russell who plays Jason’s longsuffering wife Ali.
Congratulations also to the production team which includes Luke Ertman (composer/sound design), Jaylene Wiebe (costume design), Anton deGroot (light design), Alida Lowe (production management) and Julie Serger (stage manager). Clever, unobtrusive uses of light and sound enhance virtually every segment of the show.
Kooman started work on She Has a Name in 2008, and the play has since been work-shopped and garnering increased attention as word of its message has spread. His international travels have clearly given him an insight into showing the harsh realities many in the world face. But audiences, and readers of his work, aren’t only left with solid, well-constructed stories. There’s always a sense of challenge there as well, as he consistently points people to practical ways they can help make a difference.
He should be proud of this tremendous work – the script moves forward briskly and is cleverly written giving the actors have much to work with. There’s no doubt that crafting these kinds of works is where Kooman’s heart is, and it’s exciting to think of where this play will go and what we can expect from him in the future.
Tickets for She Has A Name are $20 each. For tickets information, visit www.burntthicket.com. She Has A Name also carries a warning for mature subject matter and strong language and is not suitable for children.
For more information about Kooman’s work, check out www.andrewkooman.com.