No Freedom Without You

Newtown Salvation Army Hall, Wellington

21/02/2008 - 23/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Horror of human trafficking exposed

No Freedom Without You is Joanne Poole’s challenge to theatre-goers during the NZ Fringe Festival 2008.

No Freedom Without You portrays the heart-wrenching separation of a Thai mother from her two daughters when the girls are deceived into working in a brothel, and the emotional journey of a New Zealand detective who attempts to bust the slave-trading organisation.

An estimated 12.3 million people worldwide are victims of slave labour, an industry that is more lucrative than illegal drug markets. Incorporating original music performances, No Freedom Without You is a compelling discussion of this inhumane and destructive trade. The play will confront your preconceptions of human trafficking and leave you questioning the futility and cruelty of this trade.

Opening night of the show will be followed by a presentation from guest speaker Robert Earle, currently a Detective in the New Zealand Police. Earle took four years’ leave to work in Washington DC as an investigator for an international human rights organisation; during this time he was routinely deployed to work undercover investigating and infiltrating networks of human trafficking and child prostitution. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Robert Earle’s experiences of working tirelessly towards rescuing victims and prosecuting perpetrators of these horrific crimes.

The author, Joanne Poole, has 25 years’ experience in theatre-performing, coaching and writing a variety of drama from one-act plays to Christmas productions. She has a background in sales and promotion work, but currently works as a Young Persons and Family worker for the Wellington South Salvation Army attached to their playgroup. Joanne is very passionate about quality live theatre.

No Freedom Without You is a must-see event in this year’s Fringe Festival line-up. Be prepared for a personal challenge while enjoying great theatre that will move and inspire both new and avid theatre-goers.

Shows are from 21st to 23rd February at 8:00pm, with a matinee show at 2:00pm on 23rd February, at the Wellington South Salvation Army Hall, 16-22 Constable Street, Newtown. Book now at Ticketek (0800 842 538) for a thought-provoking theatrical experience by Mischief Productions. Adults $16, concession $12 and Fringe Addict card $10.

Ataria Sharman
Avinash Shrivastava
Bevan Reddish
David Boyle
Jackson Taylor
Jariya Willmott
Larisa Cooke
Leighancher Conrad
Sabrina Martin
Sarah Sharman
Selina Munro

1 hr, no interval

What do market forces have to answer for?

Review by John Smythe 22nd Feb 2008

More women and children are held in slavery today than at any other time in human history. Some, literally locked into sweat shops, work more hours a day than we spend awake, and are allowed just one meal a day. Others, seduced from poverty-stricken provinces with promises of legitimate work in the cities, are imprisoned as prostitutes from very young ages.

Sex trafficking is a multi-million dollar industry and beats drug trafficking because drugs can be sold through the system only once while women and children are sold over and over again. Let’s call it what it is: the rape for profit industry.

Most of the above came from the talk offered by NZ Police detective Robert Earle, after the premiere of No Freedom Without You, written and directed by Joanne Poole. Earle took four years leave to work with an international human rights organisation, often going undercover and posing as a Kiwi businessman on a South East Asian sex tour.

Earle’s experiences underpin much of Poole’s episodic script, which was initially inspired by the film Amazing Grace and William Wilberforce’s memorable observation, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Theatre is certainly an excellent platform on which to the expose such market-driven obscenities as the modern slave trade. That it has taken an amateur writer/ director to bring it to light with amateur actors is also a commentary on the priorities that drive our mostly market-driven professional theatre industry.

No Freedom Without You methodically depicts a series of telling scenarios:

Three women in a sewing sweat shop (never to appear again) establish the theme as they cope with tiredness. Two schoolgirls, Wan and Jantima, return to their tin shack home and their Mae (mother), where sex trader Ling – "the nice lady who’s been hanging around the school gates" – arrives bearing gifts and the promise of good work for the girls in a safe establishment. Only after she takes both excited girls away does a local man conveniently drop by to explain who Ling really is and what she does. So Mae sings a song: "My dreams for you are broken …"

We also follow the progress of sleazy businessman Mr Jones, bent on more illicit ‘fun’ on his next trip away, to the distaste of his travel agent Fran. He turns up at the place where the sisters are held under threat by their master, Wuttichai, and chooses Jantima so, to protect her little sister, Wan offers herself. Their sexual activities are indicated by their live sound effects from behind a screen. Oh, all the actors wear radio mics, by the way, in stage musical tradition.

Only now does detective Rick come into the picture, at home with his wife Sally, telling her of his decision to take time off to work for the cause. Sally is resistant at first but comes round and they sing a song: "So do what you have to do / Be what you have to be / To set these people free."

Rick teams up with the more experienced Harry who explains what’s what and their plan of action. The dangers they face and the courage they need inspire them, too, to sing a song, in which they put their trust in God to a modified Salvation Army standard.

Inexorably the key players converge on the place there the girls are held. What in reality would have taken months to set up, gathering secretly recorded evidence, is all over in a flash. But Jantima runs away in fright and Rick is only able to deliver Wan home to her Mae. And so to Wan’s final line, to Rick: "I have no freedom without you."

Eleven actors of varying quality – Jariya Willmott as Wan is especially good – play the 13 characters, and a team of stage hands move furniture and screens in music-bridged scene changes that are routinely half as long as the scenes themselves, and largely unnecessary.

Someone told me recently that many amateur theatre practitioners don’t go to professional theatre and this production seems to bear it out, since Wellington has seen in recent years countless multi-scene plays that have used ingenious ways to keep the action flowing, and a great many have been at BATS which cannot be said to have prohibitive ticket prices.

Theatreview’s policy of not reviewing amateur shows, because they are not accountable in the same way professionals are, gives way to the policy of covering as much Fringe theatre as possible, because they are all competing for audiences on the same ‘ticket’ and who knows what gems may be discovered in unusual places.

While there is no point in taking an amateur group to task for not meeting professional standards, this does provide an opportunity to reinforce a point both Laurie Atkinson and I made about BabyCakes: that the development of new writing talent is clearly given a great boost when an excellent actor/ director team bring their skills to a premiere production.

So there we have it: emerging professionals generate delightful entertainment with a comedy about work-mate losers getting drunk on the fringes of a wedding reception, while hard-working amateurs turn out a humdrum production that seeks to confront a global social issue we cannot pretend is irrelevant to us.

What are we to make of this? Is it all down to market forces? I’m not saying homegrown socio-political theatre never gets made in our professional theatres; the likes of Dean Parker and Tim Spite’s SEEyD Company see to that. But is the contemporary professional environment conducive to encouraging our emerging playwrights to consider pursuing themes of great substance and moment?


Joanne Poole August 15th, 2023

The review by John Smythe of the production No Freedom Without You written on 22nd Feb 2008 had some inaccuracies about the musical play. The first scene introduced one of the main characters Mae, and depicted the sweatshop working conditions she, and others around her endured. Rick and Sally characters scene was ended with their duet which was reported by some audience members to be really enjoyable and catchy. There was a live band that accompanied the songs sung throughout the play. Apart from one Salvation Army song revised, the songs were original to the play, lyrics written by Joanne Poole and music by Tania Horton. The stage changes were minimal and did not take equal time to scenes played. The stage was a limited space and used creatively considering most of the crew were amateurs. Joanne Poole consulted Detective Robert Earle, while writing the play, and he complemented her on the realistic portrayal of some of his real life experiences. Four audience members attended performances twice, as they enjoyed the play so much.

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