By KIRSTEN BOLTON
It seems an unlikely combination that a rock concert within a play driven by solving a mystery also takes an intimate and emotionally brave look at human sex trafficking, an issue that impacts lives in Canada and around the world.
That, however, is the exactly the powerful, engaging experience audiences can expect from Love Bomb, the award-winning theatre production hailing from Vancouver showing at ArtSpring on Friday, Oct. 13.
The story follows a mother who, in search of her missing teenaged daughter, comes across a new YouTube singer/songwriter, Justine, whose hit song Missing the Point hits a little too close to home. Convinced the lyrics are about her daughter, she tracks the singer down to the seedy venue where the performer is about to play to confront her. By convincing Justine to play through her whole set, clues are pieced together about what likely happened to her daughter.
While the characters are fictional, a majority of the content is pulled from real life cases. The writer, Meghan Gardener, put in a meticulous research effort, working with police and Crown prosecutors to create the most realistic version of events she could. Many of the circumstances in the play mirror what victims went through in the landmark Regina vs. Moazami case, which resulted in B.C.’s first sex trafficking conviction in 2015. Eleven of the 22 teenage and young women victims bravely came forward to testify, and their testimony is reflected in the play’s dialogue.
Love bombing refers to the controlling and manipulative tactic most often used by predators, pimps and even domestic abusers. They seek to obtain quick affection and attention with their targets, develop intimacy and dependence, before tearing their victims down or trapping them.
This was certainly the situation in the Moazami case, where he often travelled to smaller communities in B.C., including on Vancouver Island, to seduce vulnerable girls away from their families and take them back to Vancouver to perform sex work. According to director Reneé Iaci, he bought them puppies, then threatened to harm the puppies if they did not perform.
Due to the importance of the subject matter in the play, there is always a talk-back session at the end of each show to provide an opportunity for local resources people related to sexual exploitation, abuse and human trafficking to share information and awareness on the topic.
In 2015, Love Bomb producers were approached by RCMP to partner up in bringing the show and talk back to over 60 communities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan as a unique and innovative crime prevention and awareness tool.
“Anyone who works in outreach or law enforcement understands that getting the message out is one step, but ensuring the message is actually received is a challenge, especially considering the content,” explains Iaci. “The unique, and dare I say, entertaining medium of the play and its 10 original songs has proven its success in touching and emotionally connecting with audiences who have young people in their lives, or are the young people themselves, engaging them to ask questions and better equip themselves against recruitment and grooming.”
According to the United Nations and other sources, human trafficking, including sex trafficking, is now second only to the drug trade worldwide.
Tickets are available online and at the box office, including youth tickets for $5 and ArtSpring’s new Theatre Angel Program, which puts 20 tickets on sale one week prior to a performance for only $15 each, in person or by phone.