The Voyage is a visceral, thought-provoking experience

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By Boca del Lupo. Directed by Sherry Yoon. At the Anderson Street Space on Granville Island on Wednesday, March 27. Continues until March 30

The Voyage explores human trafficking—an industry for which the port of Vancouver is, sadly, a bustling hub. Before the play begins, the dozen audience members wait in a small lobby, and a man named Raphael comes around to us individually to explain that about 600 people each year arrive here in shipping containers. I can’t say much more about The Voyage without giving away its surprises, so if you plan to see the show, you might want to stop reading now.

Director Sherry Yoon and designer Jay Dodge have created a sonic journey that gives a sense—in the mildest terms—of what it’s like to be cargo: the audience is ordered out of the lobby and squished into the back of a windowless van, whose radio plays an audio montage of broadcast news stories about human trafficking.

The van stops, and we’re led into a real shipping container. When the doors close, we’re plunged into complete darkness and enveloped by an audio sculpture by Jean Routhier and Carey Dodge. Industrial noises give way to the lapping of waves, vast and impersonal, whose sounds eventually become almost indistinguishable from the earlier mechanical rumbles and groans.

It’s cool, but not particularly scary. Understandably, a 15-minute experience can’t replicate the claustrophobia, the hunger, the terror of people who are immersed in this soundscape—strikingly devoid of anything human—for weeks, facing an uncertain future if they survive the trip.

Those people apparently have their say in the show’s final moments, when at last we hear human voices. I wanted their stories, but each voice gets at most a phrase or two before the doors open and we are returned to our comfortable lives.

The Voyage is a visceral, thought-provoking experience. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it opens the door on a subject too close to home to be kept in the dark.

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