Powerful children’s play Innocence Lost, written by Moira Katz and produced by National Children’s Theatre (NCT), has won the Naledi Theatre award for Best Production For Children & Young Audiences aged 0-13.
The win, in the premier awards event on the South African theatre calendar, is a remarkable achievement for a “social play”, which addresses the scourge of sex trafficking.
The play tells the story of a 14-year-old girl lured away from her home town by a man who promises her the world. She ends up being abducted and held captive as a sex slave.
“It’s a harrowing story, but an extremely important message,” says Katz, NCT’s outgoing CEO. “We’re particularly proud of this win, as not many social plays tend to do well in the children’s categories.”
Katz wrote the play after meeting a young woman who had experienced the trauma of being trafficked, and who had been able to escape.
“NCT has a long tradition of social plays,” says Katz. “We are proud to be able to play a role in educating young people about social issues, and how to deal with them.”
NCT’s incoming CEO, Vicky Friedman, says it is encouraging to see the play recognised for its powerful message, which is perfectly suited to the theatre medium.
“Issues such as gender-based violence and human trafficking are so sensitive that it’s difficult to teach children about them in a traditional school setting. But theatre is the ideal platform for sharing this message, through Moira’s powerful storytelling.”
Katz says that aside from the human-trafficking message, the play encourages young girls to avoid abandoning their education because of promises of wealth or favours.
“Education is the key to improving your quality of life and being able to seize opportunities in life,” says Katz. “This is the message we share with audiences and the schools where we perform the play. It’s relevant at privileged and underprivileged schools alike.”
“We are proud to have this NCT play acknowledged by the theatre community,” says Friedman. “We think this could be the start of a new lease on life for the play. We look forward to partnering with organisations and businesses to take Innocence Lost to more audiences.”
The play been performed across Gauteng with support from organisations including Soroptimist International, the Kavod Trust and different.org.
The play had its incubation around 2018 and was workshopped during the Covid-19 lockdown, before being rolled out after the pandemic.
NCT secured six nominations at this year’s Naledi Awards, for Best Performance in a Production for Young Audiences by Craig Morris in Balloonacy, Jay Hlatswayo in Seussical Jr and Madelein Pienaar in Hope The Rhino, as well as Best Production for Children & Young Audiences nominations for popular shows Balloonacy and Under The Baobab Tree.
Innocence Lost begins a new run from 7 to 17 August, touring schools across Soweto and Johannesburg, with Gamelihle Bovana directing. NCT hosts one special performance at NCT on 18 August.