MY MIND IS FREE - REVIEWS AND FEEDBACK
My Mind is Free
15th October 2018
Script: **** Stagecraft: **** Performance: ****
I was shocked to learn through the discussion hosted after this excellent play that, according to the Global Slavery Index, there were over 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK in 2016. That’s nearly the whole population of Dundee. But where are they all? This is the first issue anti-slavery campaigners have to fight – it’s a hidden crime. The trafficking of people happens behind closed doors, in windowless factories or in the back of lorries and vans. Victims sometimes literally never see the light of day. Hence the absolute necessity of a play like “My Mind is Free.” Writer Sam Hall’s one-act piece of physical theatre gives a voice to the many silent victims of this truly evil practice.
Four characters struggle for warmth in the back of a van headed they know not where. There’s Beatriz from the favelas of Brazil, mother of two children, lured over to London by the prospect of ‘cleaning work.’ Her passport taken by the agency and her cellphone stolen from her by her new employer, she has no way to contact her family and no way out of exploitation as her health rapidly deteriorates to the point where she is of no further use to her ‘employer’. Fifteen-year old Giang, from Vietnam, has been trafficked across Asia and Europe to work in a cannabis farm, all the while fearful that his family back home will be in danger if he tries to escape. Violeta has been sold into prostitution by a manipulative boyfriend and passed on to a brothel in the UK populated by other migrants, all drugged and forced into sex working. A former soldier with PTSD, Colin drifts into alcoholism and loses family, home and job. While sleeping rough he is lured with drink and seeming friendliness from a gang-master into punishing manual work and soon becomes completely dependent.
Arcing over all these narratives is the sense of helplessness that prevents the exploited from seeking help. The Rah Rah Company players inhabit the desolation of each character with real pathos. The cast do a magnificent job of bringing to the light these representatives of the faceless thousands of victims of modern slavery. And as if the misery of their situation wasn’t enough, the van they are piled into is headed for a truly horrifying final destination. It’s fair to say that the play is relentlessly harrowing – more harrowing still with the knowledge that the characters’ situations are based on real-life stories. Be prepared to leave the evening outraged at man’s inhumanity to man.
Rah Rah Theatre Company are on tour with ‘My mind is Free’ at venues around Scotland. Each performance is being accompanied by a speaker on the issue of human trafficking in the UK. For more details see https://www.mymindisfree.com. I would urge anyone with the slightest interest in this contemporary disease of a so-called civilised society to see this play, then talk about it with your friends, your workmates, with anyone you can.
FRINGE REVIEW: MY MIND IS FREE BY EMMA MCCAFFREY
MY MIND IS FREE BY RAH RAH COMMUNITY THEATRE COMPANY
“THE MODERN SLAVERY ACT 2015 SAYS THAT A PERSON GUILTY OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IS LIABLE FOR IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE – BUT IN REALITY, IT’S HARD TO PROVE A CRIME OF THIS SORT.” QUOTE FROM THE SHOW
Physical theatre and actors playing multiple roles at its finest, “My Mind is Free” tells the story of four victims of the hidden crime – human trafficking.
Stored away in a van, the four characters tell us their stories: a woman tricked into an agency that makes her work for nothing, a young boy sent to the UK to work on a cannabis farm, a teenaged girl who is used by family members as a sex slave and finally an ex-soldier suffering from P.D.S who is made to work for the community for nothing. All four are unsure where they’re being driven to or why but we later find out it is for the sick practice of organ transplants. The ending is left open but whilst this all seems like a serious, sad show – which it is – it’s also a very educational show with moments where each character could have been saved.
I will say I don’t think I’ve ever been in an audience that got so emotionally attached to the characters, there were people with tears running down their faces and verbally tutting in anger at certain moments where the characters were tricked, bullied and harassed by the very people who offered them help or a better life. In reality, 125 people an hour fall victim to this crime, a fact which makes this show so important.
One-off performance on 18 August at The Salvation Army Edinburgh City Church & Community Centre (Venue 405).
Review: My Mind is Free, Waterloo East Theatre
By Charlotte Irwin on July 31, 2017 in Theatre
Without interval, My Mind is Free submerges you in tales of human trafficking. As four strangers huddle under blankets in a locked lorry hurtling towards their next prison this production seeks to create awareness of this growing issue where globally there are 1.1 million new victims a year. This equates to 3,000 victims a day, 125 an hour.
Sam Hall’s play seeks to capture the individual heart ache of trafficking, while managing to convey the breadth of the issue. Hailing from Vietnam, South America, Romania and UK, the four victims on stage have varied backgrounds and varied experiences of what it means to be trafficked.
Whether it be working on paving driveways, growing cannabis in a nail bar, or prostitution and rape My Mind is Free explores the stories of these victims one by one using flashbacks. As the actors take on roles from each of the stories, the sparse stage with its very few props of crates and blankets reflect what it is to be trafficked, possession-less, and unidentified.
Under Jude Spooner’s direction the physical theatre which combines acting, mime and dance brings a subtle emotion to these snapshots of the victims’ past. There is just the right balance of information to emotion, bringing to light an issue that is too often hidden behind closed doors, whether that be a millionaire’s house in Chelsea where the maid has no contact with the outside world and is raped by her employer, or a nail bar where victims are drugged.
The performances from the Rah Rah Theatre Company are astounding, dealing with and delivering these varied scenarios with a palpable sensitivity and, dare I say, grace. The movement and character swapping is seamless, and avoids the sense of confusion a multi-character cast can create. They work well as both a unit, and in telling their own individual stories, impressively presenting them without fault.
This play is a great starting point for those wishing to better understand not only what constitutes trafficking, but also what the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015 means for victims. It may not have the scope to delve too deep into these stories, and therefore lacks the harrowing depths of emotion that such a topic could evoke, but My Mind is Free still manages to move beyond the superficial and tap into something more penetrating and profound.
A wonderful example of physical theatre, this is compelling viewing, and promises much as it moves to Edinburgh for the Fringe.
My Mind is Free played Waterloo East Theatre on July 27.
My Mind Is Free Review
Waterloo East Theatre 27 July and Venue 405, Edinburgh 7 – 18 August. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Human trafficking is big business, with estimates of 20,000 people a year being trafficked in the UK. Rah Rah Theatre Company’s My Mind Is Free aims to highlight the plight of victims through stories that will make you realise that they could be working in plain sight, in your neighbourhood.
Four people are travelling, hidden, in the back of a van. They don’t know each other, and they don’t know where they are going, or what will happen when they get there. One by one, they tell their story to the audience, each of them having travelled very different paths to get in the van. Beatritz (Emma Miller), a Brazilian mother from the favelas, who signed up with an agency to work as a cleaner in London in order to raise enough money to allow her son a future other than joining a gang; Giang (Mark Ota), a Vietnamese boy whose family’s lives are threatened if he does not work for a gang growing cannabis in the UK; Violeta (Amy Balmforth), a Romanian teenager whose devotion to her seedy boyfriend has led to her being sold to any man who wants her; and Colin (David Sayers), a homeless army veteran suffering from PTSD.
The characters’ stories unfold gently at first, with increasing physical theatre and rising tempo as their jeopardy grows. This is especially effective in Giang’s story, as he runs back to the gang, away from a safe and happy foster home, in fear of the repercussions for his family in Vietnam. Colin’s story is the most harrowing, recreating the IED explosion in Afghanistan where he is trapped watching his friends die around him. His PTSD is portrayed by the rest of the cast flopping limply to the floor around him as he speaks to them – the only thing that stops him thinking about, and seeing, the dead is drink.
Some of the characters’ choices seem naïve on the surface, but their motivations are all believable, and their actions ARE credible if you imagine yourself in their predicament. Violeta’s continuing devotion to her groomer boyfriend, despite all he’d put her through, caused a lot of discussion after the show, but when only one person in your life has shown you what you think is love, a whole lot of therapy is needed to convince you that it’s a toxic relationship.
Jude Spooner’s astute direction keeps the play from straying into melodrama and preaching. This is a worthy production, about a dreadful issue that needs to be tackled, but it is still highly entertaining – admittedly not a laugh a minute, but a thought-provoking, sobering and stimulating evening’s entertainment.
FemaleArts, 15 Oct 2015
My Mind is Free is a new play by Sam Hall, exploring the horror of human trafficking, by presenting us with four sadly exemplary and typical fates.
The play quickly establishes its scene, we are in the back of a truck; a truck in which four people are currently being trafficked. They only have half a bottle of water left to share and no food. Eventually though, one by one, they step out of this moment and present us with their individual background stories. With the fellow three actors taking on the other roles in each of them, we witness their sad and shocking personal journeys that have led to all of them now being trafficked together in this truck.
There is Violeta (Cassandra Bond), a sex trafficked teenager from Eastern Europe; Giang (Waylon Ma), a boy from Asia forced into illegal labour to pay off his family’s debt, Beatriz (Emma Miller), a mother from Southern America who had been promised employment abroad; and Colin (David Sayers), a former British serviceman who didn’t manage to settle back into ‘normal’ life and ended up being misled by the wrong people with the promise of work and help.
There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today and about 13,000 in the UK. A fact of which some people are very aware of and fighting against, some may have heard of at some point and others may be completely oblivious to. My Mind is Free presents four stories which are remarkably different and poignant, but through that represents the scarily wide-spread outreach of human trafficking. What the show achieves impressively is that no matter what your previous knowledge of human trafficking is, the production will give you a greater knowledge and inside. In a very human and intimate exploration it turns frightening but distant facts into a tangible, moving, shocking and horrible reality.
The ensemble cast is strong throughout and particularly the large amount of multi-roling for each actor is impressive. Director Jude Spooner has also filled her production with great detail and realism, by even driving the actors around in the back of a truck, so that they could experience a sense of the reality of what these characters are going through.
Overall, no matter what your existing awareness of human trafficking is, My Mind is Free, is definitely an important show to see.
© 2015 Tessa Hart, FemaleArts - http://www.femalearts.com/node/2074 **** 4 stars
WOW KENT, 12 Oct 2015
Rah Rah Theatre company presents ‘My Mind is Free’, a new play by Medway based playwright Sam Hall’s dealing with the most pressing issue of human trafficking.
SAM RAPP (‘the Dyslexic Poet’) reviews.
‘My Mind Is Free’ is a play that brings home a powerful message. It is a compelling, thought-provoking story that takes the audience on a journey spanning many countries, together with the victims of human trafficking and those who ply their trade in human misery. It is an international trade which runs through Europe, Africa, China, Brazil, and other countries; it is a trade in human suffering, with broken promises and breaches of the most sincere trust, and people’s lives torn apart.
‘My Mind is Free’ is a raw play that doesn’t hold back, telling the story without apology. It does not shy away from how the victims are treated, raped and abused at all levels of defenceless human plight; or how they are trapped, with escape all but a daydream.
The play opens with those trafficked in a lorry, their bodies, covered by a sheet, cramped into a tiny space trying to sleep, sharing a small bottle of water. They are mixed together, young and old. All have a story to tell, all have been going in different directions in life, and are at different times in their lives, and now in a place in the lorry going somewhere – but no one knows where.
Among the characters we have Giang from Asia, so wonderfully portrayed by Waylon Ma, trying to help his family due to their debts and out of the love he has for them. He is the youngest of the family at just 14, alone and forced to work in a cannabis factory, the fumes making him ill as his young body is not able to cope with the drugs slowly poisoning him.
Then we have Beatriz, played by Emma Miller, who has left her family in Brazil to provide better opportunities for her son and husband. She is isolated and alone in the forced hell of domestic servitude in which she finds herself.
Cassandra Bond plays the young, beautiful and naive Violeta, the downtrodden victim of the ‘boyfriend trap’ who has been tricked into falling in love, then tricked into prostitution and addiction and betrayed by the man she loved. And finally the most striking character in this play is Colin, played by David Sayers, the Englishman who has simply fallen on hard times and finds solace in drinking to excess.
The one thing in common with all the characters is that they are all trying to get away from something in order to change their life to help someone back home; what is often portrayed in the media is that victims of human trafficking are someone else’s problem, someone else’s child, someone else’s pain, and someone for society to batter and belittle. These people are victims, they are just normal everyday people, and for a short time, just for a moment, Giang is shown as the child he was, having fun and enjoying life as he should do.
‘My Mind is Free’ is a powerful and thought provoking piece that sends home a very important message: I would defy anyone not to be moved by it. This is a play that makes you think; it makes you judge your own humanity, and ask questions of society.
The ‘My Mind Is Free’ tour presented by Rah Rah Theatre Company continues at the following venues. I urge you all to see it.
East London Lines
Bringing to an end a two weeks stretch around the city, “My Mind is Free” made a satisfying final appearance on-stage at Croydon’s famous Fairfield Halls.
The play, written by playwright Sam Halls and produced by the Rah Rah theatre company, tells the story of four individuals, three of them illegal immigrants, who find themselves trapped in the back of a truck heading to an unknown destination. The Rah Rah theatre company was set up in 2001 with the main goal of bringing community into theatre and their productions.
In one continuous run and through a remarkable use of its only four cast members, the narrative drifts between characters in order to explain how each of them ended up imprisoned in the truck. Although certain aspects of the story might come across as superfluous, the production still manages to achieve a strong degree of thoughtful criticism towards the issues it sets out to dramatise: human trafficking and immigration.
While the play strives towards a cold, harsh and sublimely insensitive portrait of British society in relation to these subjects (for example its representation of a West London ‘posh’ family’s attitude to immigration), each main character provides an interesting insight into the feelings and struggles of an illegal immigrant.
From the very moment when the person takes (or is forced to make) the decision to leave her country, to the moment they arrive and the first cultural clash takes place, “My Mind is Free” never shies away from a rough and highly discerning style.
At points, Hall’s playwright does find it difficult to balance these two visions. Some characters just feel like mere stereotypical embodiments, rather than more thoughtfully complex additives to the whole picture. The Brazillian husband that repeatedly says “Por Siempre” instead of “Pra Sempre”, or the Vietnamese family that’s always in debt somehow just never quite seem real.
Yet again, this doesn’t go as far as to cloud the play’s powerful critique qualities.
In fact, once we get deeply involved with the characters suffer and we begin to understand the different ways in which human trafficking can take place, it’s really hard not be moved by it, and practically impossible not have an interest in knowing more about the human trafficking picture around where you live.
As a whole, “My Mind is Free” works as a refreshing and highly critical turn to a really important, but somehow surprisingly overlooked topic. It succeeds at a getting a clear message on human trafficking and immigration across, understanding its implications and consequences, and at the same time shows the reach and quality of communal theatre in London.
By Roberto Stifano Flores