Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Some plays take your breath away. She Has a Name crushes the breath out of you. From its violent opening to its violent conclusion She Has a Name pins you down in your chair, compelling you to watch even when you want to leave.
This sense is helped by the set. Which, while the stage is quite large, only occupies a small part of it, bringing a greater sense of intensity to the action taking place. The background of the stage contains a screen on which is painted the scene of a family in the doorway of its home. The rest of the set contains a bed, two chairs and a table. This set is place on a large bamboo mat which sets the parameters for most of the action.
Accompanying the action throughout are three white clad women, who play The Voices, representing all those whose life has been destroyed by human trafficking. They provide a haunting chorus that is more often accusatory than comforting.
Set in and around the brothels of Bangkok. The story concerns the attempts of a young lawyer (Jason) to convince one of the girls, known only as No. 18, to provide evidence against the owners of the brothel.
Yet the story isn’t limited to that as it connects the young lawyer’s story of working with No. 18 with the story of his young family back in the U.S.A. The audience soon realizes that there is more at stake for Jason than just being able to make the case against the sex traffickers his and his families own well-being hang in the balance as he pursues the case.
As the story is worked out, we are led through many of the issues surrounding human trafficking. To the play’s credit, the issues are presented in the fulness of their complexities, with no shortcuts taken and no easy answers given.
This process is helped along by an excellent cast. In particular Evelyn Wong who plays No. 18 and one of the voices, along with Carl Kennedy who plays the dual roles of Jason and the Pimp. This dual role for Mr. Kennedy also serves as a reminder that the distance between the crusading lawyer and the Pimp is often quite a bit smaller than we would wish it to be.
Watching the transformation of No. 18 throughout the play is also the most heart-wrenching part. When she first encounters Jason, she is a young, and the emphasis is on young, girl who is eager to please him and confused that he doesn’t want her offered pleasures. As the story moves forward, we see her distrust slowly fading away, and hope building in her. Can such hope be sustained?
The question is of great importance given the violence that permeates the show. Most of the violence both physical and sexual is simulated and in choosing do it this way, the emphasis is switched onto the effects that the violence has on the people who are the recipients of it.
The ending of the play is both unexpected and expected. You will not leave the theatre feeling satisfied. That however, is the whole point of the play. It is not intended to give the audience food for thought, but rather it is designed to help move us all to action. Running throughout the play is a great sense of abandonment. No. 18 has been abandoned by everyone she has ever known in our life and we are meant to see, by extension that by not being willing to enter into the fray against human trafficking, we also are abandoning young girls like No. 18
This idea of a call to action is made even more explicit if you take the time to visit the She Has a Name website which offers more information on the subject of human trafficking.
If you are looking for a comfortable show, She Has a Name is definitely not one that you want to see. You will very likely find yourself disturbed by the events in the play. However, it’s a good thing to be disturbed from time to time. As being disturbed may be the first step in moving towards action.
The play is at MTYP at the Forks. Venue 9.