Theatre Preview: Silent Trade, Belfast’s Lyric Theatre February 22nd – 26th and other tour dates.

By Conor O’Neill

Silent Trade, a play commissioned by Kabosh Theatre Company, opens at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre on February 22nd – 26th before mapping its way around the North of Ireland. The play promises to shine a light on the hidden world of modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland.

Written by Belfast playwright Rosemary Jenkins, the work exposes the human misery lurking in the leafy suburbs and student areas of Belfast though the plight of a young female immigrant who is forced into a life of servitude and prostitution to pay off debts owed to her traffickers.

*Cast from left to right – Seamus O’Hara, Louise Parker, Lizzy Akinbami and James Doran*

Kabosh Artistic Director Paula McFetridge said reports of recent police operations had increased public awareness of what previously had been a hidden crime. She explained: “Rosemary and I have been talking about this subject for three and a half years and now the time is right to expose wat is happening behind the curtains of homes across the north.”

New laws on modern slavery and human trafficking came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2015. Between 2012 and 2020 the number of potential victims of modern slavery rose by 750% in Northern Ireland from 15 individuals to 128.

Modern Slavery and human trafficking hit the headlines last year when the PSNI raided 27 brothels across Northern Ireland and charged two people with brothel keeping and human trafficking charges. An officer from the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit said the offences were often ‘hidden in plain sight’.

As part of her research for the play Rosemary spoke to members of the Nigerian community who had knowledge of human trafficking. She used those conversations to create a fictional story of Precious, a young Nigerian-born woman who is forced to work as a domestic servant for an affluent family in a posh neighbourhood in East Belfast.

As the story unfolds, Precious ends up working as a prostitute in a rundown house in the Tate’s Avenue area. She is played by Nigerian-born Lizzy Akinbami in her first stage role.

*cast with Paula McFetridge, second from left and Rosemary Jenkins, second from right*

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

Lizzy is joined on stage by Louise Parker who plays two roles – Erin, the entitled, rich career woman who enslaves Precious and also Suzanne, a drug addict forced into prostitution to pay off debts, who befriends Lizzy when she first enters the brothel.

Kabosh regular, Hames Doran plays Rab, the pimp and brothel owner who ‘buys’ Precious from Erin to work in one of his premises. Precious and Suzanne, surviving on pills and vodka, dream about getting free from Rab and escaping their prison.

Seamus O’Hara, who played Turlough in the Oscar and BAFTA nominated short film An Irish Goodbye, plays Niall, a curious stranger who arrives in Precious’s world and makes a turning point in her experience.

Despite its serious subject and disturbing scenes, the script crackles with dark Belfast humour.

Silent Trade runs at the Lyric from February 22nd up to and including February 26th. For booking details visit or ring the box office on 02895 922925.

The tour dates are as follows:

Old Court House, Antrim, February 28th.

The Market Place Theatre, Armagh, March 3rd.

Dundalk Institute of Technology, March 4th.

Ranfurly House, Dungannon, March 5th.


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