By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

A minimalist set design dominated the stage last night in the production of Silent Trade at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

The set by Tracey Lindsay, which first appeared as a container, then transformed into a middle-class home, a brothel and an interview room, was a powerful metaphor for the theme of the play – a forensic examination of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. No matter what is happening on the stage we get the sense that we are in a prison. Sound design by Dan Leith added to the stark atmosphere.

Written by writer Rosemary Jenkinson and produced by the Kabosh Theatre Company, the story dealt with the fate of trafficked Nigerian woman Precious and her captivity in a posh house and a brothel.

Actor Lizzy Akinbami, in her first theatrical role, played the wide-eyed, shocked Precious as she is introduced to her ‘captor’ Erin, played by Louise Parker.

The dialogue crackled with danger as Erin tells Precious what her daily duties will consist of – effectively the role of a modern-day slave.

One morning as Precious lies sleeping, Erin comes into the kitchen and screams: “You should be up warming the kettle, not lying there like a pig half the morning.”

Silent Trade cast: Seamus O’Hara, left, with Louise Parker, Lizzy Akinbami, and James Doran
Kabosh Theatre director Paula McFetridge left, with writer Rosemary Jenkinson at a Q&A with the audience last night at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

The latter stages of the drama, directed by Kabosh theatre director Paula McFetridge, looked at Precious’s experience in a brothel and her eventual release into a world where she still feels trapped – this time by the authorities.

Louise Parker was especially powerful when she left the role of Erin to appear again as a brothel worker called Suzanne. You totally believed in her performance as an edgy young woman living on her wits whilst being ruthlessly exploited by gang boss Rab.

Actor James Doran inhabited his role as Rab with menace. He thinks he is a decent guy but as the drama unfolded we view him as a psychotic thug who will do anything for money.

Seamus O’Hara (who starred in the Bafta winner An Irish Goodbye which has also been nominated for an Oscar) played the role of a policeman.

It was brave of Kabosh to put this play on. Full marks to all involved in its production. It was also good to see the drama being performed in front of a full house.

We got a strong sense of the exploitation which flows from human trafficking. The question now is what we do about it.

The UK government’s continued insistence that it will clamp down on the traffickers while simultaneously cutting off safe and legal routes for asylum seekers rings hollow.

The bodies of 39 Vietnamese people — 31 men and 8 women — who were found in the trailer of an articulated refrigerator lorry in Essex in October 2019 revealed the true horror of a global trade based on profit.

Silent Trade is on at the Lyric Theatre until February 26, before going on the road to the Old Courthouse in Antrim (February 28), the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, (March 3), Dundalk Institute of Technology (March 4) and Ranfurly House, Dungannon (March 5). Tickets and info via kabosh.net/production/silent-trade

 
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