Impact of ‘comfort’ atrocities explored through drama
Even in the worst of circumstances, love, it seems, still finds a way.
Red Snow Collective is presenting the world premiere of Comfort, a drama that features live music, innovative staging and stylized movement.
Comfort is the love story of two Chinese youth — a fisherman, Ping Yang, and the daughter of an esteemed silk merchant, Dan Feng — who find love and friendship in their shared passion for opera against the backdrop of World War II. As their city of Nanjing is gripped by the Nanjing Massacre and hundreds of thousands are brutally murdered, the lovers become separated when Dan Feng is captured and imprisoned in a “comfort” house in Shanghai.
“I felt like I have been given a very important responsibility to direct a chilling story that could have been easily swept under the rug,” said director William Yong. “Why are people silenced? What makes us human and what makes us abandon our morals and plunge into creating hell?”
More than 200,000 girls and women from across Asia were forced into systematic sexual slavery by the Japanese Army for the duration of the war and were referred to as “comfort women”. Written by Canadian playwright Diana Tso, Comfort explores the meaning behind “comfort” in wartime and celebrates the resilience of women in the midst of unimaginable circumstances.
The show features an original score by Constantine Caravassilis performed live on erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle), accordion, piano and percussion.
“Comfort is a collective journey by which the struggle of women in war is reflected as a cry for peace in a world dominated by crises rooted in human greed,” said Caravassilis. “We hope that through our art we will be able to educate our audience by bringing awareness of a wide range of important topics which include gender equality and the irreversible damage on the human psyche that wars have always brought.”
The cast features Vania Chan ( The Lesson of Da Ji), Phoebe Hu ( The Other Side of the World); Jen Hum ( Xing Dance Theatre), Vicki Kim ( The Auction), Oliver Koomsatira ( Banana Boys), Timothy Ng ( Shanghai Lil) and Jeff Yung ( Banana Boys).
According to the producers, the Rape of Nanjing and many of the atrocities of World War II in Asia have not been fully recognized; there has been no official apology or compensation for the victims, and the Japanese government continues to deny responsibility for these crimes against humanity.
“Few comfort women have survived and even fewer have had the courage to share their story and begin the healing process,” a press release says. “Comfort honours their voices and demonstrates the power of art to heal and find change Comfort will be performed at the Aki Studio Theatre from Nov 24 to Dec 10.
At a press conference for on Nov 25 in Toronto, from left, executive director of ALPHA Education Flora Chong, Canadian playwright Diana Tso and director William Yong discuss the upcoming production.