'We must speak for those who are no longer here'. When Fumiko (Jo Chim) tells the children of her class in Japan about the importance of, not only remembering, but also speaking openly about the Holocaust, the play's central theme is clear. Hana's Suitcase, playing at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, is an intelligent and delightful look at this story, without having to bang the messages over the heads of its audience.
The fact remains that there are a great deal of people who still have no knowledge of the atrocities of the second World War. Children of this Japanese school admit, "I've never met a Jew before, have you?" The importance of this piece, far outweighs the importance of its entertainment value; though that, in itself, was a pleasure as well.
It is March, 2000. A child's suitcase arrives from Auschwitz at the tiny Holocaust Education Centre in Tokyo. Painted on the side is a name (Hana Brady), a birth date and the word "Waisenkind" (orphan). Spurred on by children at the centre, the curator embarks on a relentless search from Tokyo to Prague to Toronto to uncover the story
of Hana and her fate at the hands of the Nazis.
The detective story that ensues, as the children search for Hana's identity, keeps the pace and rhythm of the show interesting. The two children, Maiko and Akira (Ella Chan and Dale Yim), were played honestly and the two worked well together, developing a strong rapport with the audience, who watch the story through their eyes. The rest of the cast supported the journey accordingly.
The stylized use of Mask is used to portray the neutrality and hopelessness of the Jewish prisoners of war. Multimedia is used (though not to its fullest potential), but that helps add to the visual aspect of the piece, showing the art of the time and the names of the many unknown dead.
Again the story itself is the strongest aspect of the play. The fact that it is a true story becomes inspiring and I don't doubt audiences leave with as many questions as they do answers. The purpose of the play is ultimately successful. Hana's suitcase provides audiences with, not only perspective, but also a chance to be a part of the story; to be the sequel with their own stories.
Hana's Suitcase runs at the Lorraine Kimsa Young People's Theatre 165 Front Street East Sept 30-Oct. 19.
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