Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

How is Uncle John?

Sally Lewis

Genre: Drama, New Writing

Venue: Assembly Hall


Low Down

A story of modern day slavery. The emotional and psychological journey that steered a young woman to be trafficked into the sex market runs parallel to a mother’s struggle to reconcile with the past and bring her daughter home.


Human trafficking is increasing. According to Stop the Traffik it has never been easier to move people around the world and to profit from exploitation.

Sally Lewis worked closely with charities including Stop the Traffik and Unseen to develop the play, interviewing women who have been trafficked, their families and the organisations who support them. The result is a play that explores adult slavery and the way that a young woman can be drawn into a situation she then can’t escape from.

It is a two hander in which the young woman, Hope (Naomi Stafford) and her mother (Holly Joyce) tell their stories in parallel overlapping monologues. Whilst it is Hope we focus on as she falls in love, goes on holiday and is tricked into prostitution her mother also has her own story of struggle against abuse.

This is an important subject and Lewis has attacked it head on with Hope’s innocence as she meets an attractive older man, only to find a very different reality once she is on holiday with him. The writing is fluid and warm and she builds the tension well but the story jumps forward a little too quickly and might benefit from being extended. Stafford’s performance is lively and engaging, it is particularly strong in her physical reactions to the violence she experiences. Holly Joyce gives a nuanced performance as Mother (why does she not have a name?), concerned for her daughter but distracted by her own experiences of emotional abuse within her marriage.

Both characters use only monologue, even when reporting a conversation with the other, and it would be interesting to see the impact of allowing those moments of intersection to be dialogue. Director Ben Mills has done superb and disturbing work with Hope and violence but could make much greater use of the space showing us more of mother and daughter’s relationship if Hope moved into her mother’s space at those moments of connection/disconnection.

This is a piece that has tremendous potential – an important topic, strong writing and excellent performers but perhaps needs further development.


Further information about trafficking and human slavery can be found at: