Anja Meinhardt of Justice in Motion tells Tei Williams about her play which aims to highlight the shocking plight of victims of human trafficking
Anja Meinhardt is an impassioned woman with a deep social conscience. It was her conviction that she needed to do something about human trafficking that led her to create Bound, a compassionate and moving theatrical experience about exploitation. 'I know it sounds deeply miserable and to some extent it is but it also, as one audience member described it, hard hitting, entertaining, moving and beautifully crafted. I think I'll go along with that.' said Anja fresh from rehearsal for the new tour.
Bound, which tours to Banbury, London, Oxford and Didcot came out of a solo dance piece, Dare to Dream about longings and aspirations that actor, dancer, director and choreographer, Anja created in 2011. She gained subsidy to develop the show into a full length work which enabled her to look at the impact on human nature when expectations are denied and exploitation is the result.
She found two actors who were equally passionate about social change and together they formed a loose framework for a show. Research took them to Dr Bill Prevette of Oxford Centre for Mission Studies whose focus on youth and children at risk in the developing world and human trafficking gave him a direct link to survivors. Much of what he told the actors created a deep visceral reaction, not something they had expected. As did the case studies told them by OXCAT, Oxford Community Against Trafficking, which aims to expose modern slavery in all its forms and to fight any human trafficking. Their input was fundamental in shaping the show and putting flesh on the three characters who became an amalgam of the experiences of many.
'I thought I already knew quite a lot about exploitation before our research but what transpired is I knew very little.' said Anja. 'I was chilled by the extent of it and surprised that very few countries are free of it. However I was hugely encouraged by the number of organisations trying to combat it. We had no idea that we were so close to it. We were in the midst of our first performances of Bound at Pegasus in east Oxford when Operation Bullfinch came to light. It revealed that nearly 400 young girls were being sexually exploited. We were extremely distressed that it was occurring on our doorstep, only a few hundred metres from where we were performing and we had no idea that it was happening so close to home, even marking the lives of some people we knew.' This only reinforced the need to get the show right.
Anja's method of working might be described as thematic. ' I usually get hooked on a word or a phrase or an image or maybe all three. In the case of Bound it was several things - anger, fear, shock, darkness, stained shirts. We took these into the workshop and with much discussion and played around until we had interpreted them into movement.
'We went into workshop and came up with something that writer Gareth Cook developed into an exciting and challenging script. Our three characters come from around the world, from South America, Moldova and from the United Kingdom. They have many things in common: they want to make a better life for their families, they have been lied to and they are totally isolated, making change almost impossible'.
Anja founded Justice in Motion in 2011 with the aim of raising awareness of social injustice through powerful, thought-provoking and visually stunning theatre, inspiring debate and action for social change. The company, a collective of artists and collaborators, work closely to create work that embraces many art forms. Bound is a powerful fusion of physical theatre, dance, spoken word, music, projection - and a little parkour.
BOUND is touring to The Mill Banbury 20 April, Old Fire Station 2 & 3 June and Cornerstone Didcot on 21 June.