New play from Kabosh Theatre Company to look at the hidden world of modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland


By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

The opening night of any theatre production is when we get to see the finished version being performed. But months are usually spent in rehearsal as the cast, writer and director iron out the wrinkles so that the play can breathe and flow.

I called in recently to a rehearsal room in Belfast to talk to some of those involved with a new play commissioned by Kabosh Theatre Company. According to a press release I was sent, Silent Trade, written by playwright, poet and short story writer Rosemary Jenkinson, will “shine a light on the hidden world of modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland”. 

The heart of the story is about the plight of a young female immigrant forced into domestic servitude and prostitution to pay off debts owed to her traffickers. 

Writer Rosemary Jenkinson Image: Johnny Frazer 

“This latest piece of work is inspired by what has been going on in the world and the news articles that I had been reading,” said Rosemary. “I first came to Kabosh artistic director Paula McFetridge with the idea for a play in 2019. At that time, the stories about Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were totally dominating the news.”

Rosemary also referred to a Lisburn couple who had kept a vulnerable Nigerian woman as a domestic slave. It was the first ever prosecution in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act.

“The narrative of the play, covers Precious, who is a young woman from Nigeria who arrives in Belfast and is immediately taken to a beautiful middle class home where she is enslaved,” added Rosemary.

“I had George Orwell’s novel 1984 in mind when I wrote this play. There’s definitely an Orwellian theme to it. A person is trapped and they are always being watched by their jailor.”

Actor Lizzy Akinbami Image: Johnny Frazer

Actor Lizzy Akinbami, who plays the role of Precious, told of her joy at landing her first stage role.

Lizzy said: “There is such depth in Precious’s story. She is a very strong character right from the start of the play. It is an incredible part to play as my first theatrical role.”

“The rest of the cast have actually make my job quite easy because they’re just amazing actors.”

Actors Seamus O’Hara, left, with Louise Parker, Lizzy Akinbami and James Doran Image: Johnny Frazer

Lizzy is joined in Silent Trade by actors Louise Parker, James Doran and Seamus O’Hara.

Paula McFetridge added: “Rosemary and I have worked together on several occasions. All the work of Kabosh is to do with giving a voice to those who are not being heard and whose voices have been silenced for various reasons.”

Silent Trade premieres at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, on February 22, playing there until February 26, before going on the road to the Old Courthouse in Antrim on February 28, the Market Place Theatre, Armagh on March 3, Dundalk Institute of Technology, March 4 and Ranfurly House, Dungannon on March 5. 

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