‘Hollow’: Indie theater recounts the tragedy of World War II ‘comfort women’ in new original play

Photo: Courtesy of Peel the Limelight

Inner strength, ongoing suffering, systematic abductions — these are some of the unifying elements in the stories of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, and it’s these stories that form the basis of an original theatrical play debuting tonight at Peel the Limelight, an independent theater in Bangkok.

Hollow is the theater’s original production, based on survivors’ testimonies and documented evidence of torture and abuse, which reportedly involved as many as 300,000 women from 26 nationalities. The performance explores the legacy of the victims, often referred to as “comfort women” — a darkly euphemistic phrase translated from Japanese — and the transcendent strength that these women endured during one of the darkest periods of the 20th century.

“It [the play] is about justice, awareness, empowerment,” said Peter O’Neill, Peel the Limelight’s artistic director and the play’s dramaturg.

We have been researching and focusing on the many personal stories and testaments of the victims. We have used video evidence, autobiographical evidence. We have spent many hours watching documentary evidence to discover common themes that we could represent theatrically. The personal stories spoke to us most,” he said.

In a show of support for the worldwide #MeToo movement, Hollow will be the third female-focused play from Peel the Limelight this year, following their March performance of John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God, the story of a young novitiate who controversially gives birth to a child — though she has no recollection of the event. In April, the season continued with I Am My Own Wife, a play based on the true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transgender woman who survived the regimes of the Nazis and East German Communists.

O’Neill tells us that with Hollow, the audience will enter the world of the victims and their harrowing experiences, and be asked important questions as the performance goes.

We were all motivated by the opportunity to tell some of these women’s stories. It took so long for these victims stories to be told, and we are still waiting for their stories to be heard — truly heard so that we learn from the mistakes of the past.”

Hollow will premiere on Friday, Aug. 3 and will be performed on every Friday and Saturday throughout August. Tickets are THB700, while discounts are available for members and students. Tickets are available for purchase here.

Peel the Limelight Studio is located at the Jasmine City Building, 5 minutes walk from BTS Asoke and MRT Sukhumvit stations.

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