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Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
(Capital Critics’ Circle)
Ottawa, June 20, 2011
The Walk explores the omnipresent problem tied to the trafficking of women sold into sex slavery. It is the story about the destiny of millions of young women, some of them mere children who are caught in the chains of lucrative business – an organized crime that involves all structures of society worldwide. Although a story that has been told numerous times (but then – which one is not!), it takes a different turn in playwright Catherine Cunningham-Huston and director Nathalie Fraser-Purdy’s vision. During the Fringe festival, I believe, we witness the connection of art and real life, the attempt to merge theatre and action.
But, let’s start at the beginning.
The story of enslaved women is told at two levels and interlaced artistically on the stage. Two Canadian artists (a writer and a director) and a nun are trying to produce a play about sex slavery. While working on different phases of the project, they become more and more emotionally involved. The audience follows the progress of their research through scenes depicting four girls, as much victims of poverty, ignorance and superstition in their countries as of criminals whose rule over them is based on terror and fear. As the narrative unfolds, it appears that this problem has no solution – the combination of the victim’s fear and the greed found in the very social structures which are supposed to fight the crime, make it impossible to resolve.
A very complex issue to put together successfully in a one-hour show! Still, the Moon Dog Theatre manages to do a very good job of it. The documentary style proves to be the perfect technique to show the multitude of layers and the complexity of the problem.
The structure of the play is a story within a story. Snapshot scenes of the women’s testimonies are incorporated into the narrative of the Canadian group’s struggle to both understand the issue and create a play. The two sides are mixed with seamless transitions, helped with masterful lighting, until they seemingly melt into each other.
The stage has a photographic feel. Images of the girls frozen in time, whether standing in frames or moving around as grotesque masked figurines, illustrate perfectly the reality behind the statistics. This approach brings more than story telling. Each frame reaches out to our passive sad-but-nothing-we-can-do attitude and shakes our sometimes-dormant conscience. Drums underline the drama, but, at the same time, working wonderfully with the sequences on the stage, remind us that this is not, as seen by many, an exotic tale full of sex, crime and passion, but a human drama staged in every corner of our planet, including our doorstep.
Although the acting could be done better (there is no need to overplay or shout in order to get a message across), the play altogether was very powerful and believable, leaving many a tearful eye in its wake.