Theatre Review - The Apology

THE comfort woman statue placed in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011 serves as a powerful reminder of the Korean victims of sexual slavery exploited by the occupying forces during the Second World War.

The strategic siting was intended to pressurise the Japanese into issuing a formal apology and to pay reparations.

Kyo Choi’s powerful play covers the plight of thousands of “comfort women” and the silence that followed. As part of the attempts to cover up the extent of the abuse, many women were killed at the end of the war. Others continued to be held in “comfort stations” and were abused by American GIs until the spring of 1946.

The action takes place between 1945 and 2018. Priyanka Silva (Sharan Phull), a Sri-Lankan human rights lawyer preparing a report for the UN, is determined to uncover the truth.

In 1991, she meets with Kim Sun-Hee (Sarah Lam), one of the first women to speak up about the abuse.

Most of the survivors are too traumatised to talk about what happened to them or are shamed into silence. But when one voice is raised others join her.

Running parallel to this narrative is the story of Han Min (Kwong Loke) and his daughter Han Yuna (Minhee Yeo). Han worked for the Korean police during the war and harbours a dreadful secret.

Throughout The Apology, there are flashbacks to the plight of 16-year-old Kwon Bok-Hae (Jessie Baek) during the Japanese occupation.

She believes she is enlisting to be a nurse in the female volunteer corps, but is forced into sex slavery and held in appalling conditions.

Only at the end do we realise how their various lives are connected.

Ria Parry’s fast-paced production is played out on TK Hay’s split-level set papered with documents and reports. A raised platform serves as Kwon’s prison and the studio where Kim constructs the statue.

This is an urgent, compelling play about the long and laboured pursuit of truth and justice.

Until October 8