By Conor O’Neill
Photography courtesy of Johnny Frazer
The Lyric’s Naughton Studio theatre is packed to the gills. A mixture of all ages chatters away with anticipation for Kabosh Theatre Company’s latest play Silent Trade. A dark story with plenty of wry laughs that focuses on the increasing number of human trafficking and modern slavery crimes in Northern Ireland.
Writer Rosemary Jenkins and Kabosh Artistic Director Paula McFetridge spent over three years researching the criminal trade, speaking specifically with members of the Nigerian community to get as close to the heart of the issue as possible.
*above Seamus O’Hara as John and Lizzy Akinbami as Precious*
This research is personified in the fictional tale of Precious (Lizzy Akinbami), a 26-year-old Nigerian woman trafficked into Northern Ireland where she works firstly as a housemaid and then sold on into the sleazy world of prostitution. For Akinbami’s first theatrical role, this one hour and 10 minute, single act show, welcomes a dazzling new talent to Northern Irish audiences.
Precious is in almost every scene, whether it be as the ‘home-help’ of Erin (Louise Parker) a busy mother of two from affluent east Belfast, Rab (James Doran), a grubby yet threatening pimp who proudly boasts, “I own five houses and 15 girls”, or John (Seamus O’Hara) a visitor to the brothel who sees Precious as the human she is and plays a pivotal role in her seemingly everlasting life of servitude and fear.
The topic maybe heavy, but Jenkins’ pen and McFetridge’s direction, alongside set design by Tracey Lindsay, sound design by Dan Leith and lighting by Mary Tumelty brings this one act show to sparkling life, and give it the it the claustrophobic mood the script demands. All the characters are believable. The set resembles a shipping crate, quite apt considering the topic. And with a few moves by the cast it turn from suburban kitchen to brothel room, Belfast street corner and more.
*James Doran as Rab and Louise Parker as Erin*
When Precious is no longer needed, Erin sells her on to Rab. Once again money and passport change hands yet Precious sees neither. In the Brothel Precious meets Suzy (also played by Louise Parker) and herein lies the crux of Silent Trade. Suzy maybe from Northern Ireland but she too is a prisoner. Her backstory and the bond she and Precious form is heartening and at times darkly funny.
Rab feeds his girls ‘chill pills’ and vodka to dim their wits. But Precious is far from dim though. Her philosophical, “when a mouse laughs at a cat there’s a hole nearby” is just one of the many little turns of phrase that has the audience leaning forward to this play as it moves along in close to pin-drop silence.
You’ll learn a lot from this play. From what a ‘Trolley’ is to the damaged lives being lived in every town all over Northern Ireland.
To quote John, “Am I asking too many questions or do you have too many secrets?”
Silent Trade runs up to and including Sunday, February 26th with matinees on the Saturday and Sunday.
For booking details and times visit http://www.lyrictheatre.co.uk or simply phone the box office on 02890 381081
After its run at the Lyric Silent Trade goes on a regional tour. The venues and dates are as follows:
The Old Courthouse, Antrim, February 28th
Market place Theatre, Armagh, March 2nd
Dundalk Institute of Technology, March 3rd
Ranfurly House, Dungannon, March 4th
For further details visit http://www.kabosh.net
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