Posts tagged: Pacific Ocean
Image credit taken from Boca Del Lupo
Up and up the stairs into a small blacked out room with chairs loosely spread around and people sitting in positions not quite able to look at each other — but we do.
We are kindly warned, we being theatre goers, we being not claustrophobic, and we being given this choice of the warning.
With a flip of a switch that nobody saw, the kind warnings are gone and we are coldly and efficiently led down and down and into a waiting unmarked van. The re-recreation of human trafficking here lapses as the crowd turns giddy. Maybe from nerves, but the energy of being communally thrilled is consciously perverse, and yet, that’s what we’ve come for.
As a play that throws you into the experience of those who are trafficked across the Pacific Ocean and into Vancouver harbour ever year, Sherry Yoon’s The Voyage packs a small, yet powerful punch. Inside the blacked out van, a precursor of what’s to come, our ears adjust to the radio, at first seemingly contemporary and maybe scanning live, but it’s only the beginning to an intricate and incessant sound design. I think about the benches the 12 of us are sitting on, which have been put in for our comfort. The same benches back to back are inside the container. We never have to touch the floor, be cold, or uncomfortable, or doubt our exit plan.
Hours later, I still have a mild headache from breathing in too deeply from the darkness of the container. The soundscape is the voyage from the dock to the sea to the voices of the trafficked — mostly of women smuggled and sold in the sex trade. The parallel to the Atlantic slave trade is vivid and horrific. Most die on the voyage. Most have no idea what’s about to happen to them.
The horror of the situation can never be re-created, only imagined. Boca Del Lupo have taken a leap into the visceral darkness of human trafficking and present a sensory (deprived) experience that is stunning by our defaults. The impenetrable darkness and the increasing deprivation of oxygen, all for a controlled 20 minutes, is to raise awareness, to produce a tinge of lived empathy, and yet, as we filed back out into the light, taking a leisurely closer inspection of the container, inhaling an extra deep breath of fresh air, and stretching out the muscle cramps that were as imagined as the sea, the lingering experience of The Voyage actually make me thankful, if not feel more privileged than ever before.
We aptly sat in the darkness as the world went on outside, we aptly did nothing as we listened to the stories of the humans who have survived. I can only wonder what the audience thought and felt of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant when it premiered in Newark in 1967. Baraka too felt it necessary to immerse the audience away from their daily reality and into the lived journey by confronting all senses from a soundscape of the suffering and the sea to emitting the smells of feces and urine into the theatre.
Slave Ship was from most accounts an unrelenting work about building a communal sense of an African-American identity within the context of the American civil rights movement. I can only begin to speculate about the context of The Voyage, pointing towards the politics of our consumer positions trading places with the bottom barracks of the pan-Pacific economy, giving us a pause in wondering what keeps driving up the real estate prices and who’s really paying the difference.
The Voyage is directed Sherry Yoon as part of Boca Del Lupo’s Micro Performance Series. Designer Jay Dodge. Sound Artists Jean Routier & Carey Dodge. Runs March 28: 7pm & 8pm, March 29: 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, March 30: 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, March 31: 4pm (matinée), 7pm, 8pm, 9pm at The Anderson Street Space