Edinburgh Fringe 2011
By the time you leave the theatre 60 women will have been trafficked in the EU. 99.6% of trafficking victims are never identified. “Sold” gives a voice to these people, presents the issues of human trafficking and lives up to its word on being “a politically urgent, dynamic piece of verbatim theatre that confronts the issue of modern day Slavery”
This is certainly not one for the light hearted. Within minutes a world of anonymity, violence, exploitation, fear, and loneliness is created on stage. The innovative combination of multimedia, movement and verbatim creates an aesthetic which is theatrically striking, however at times a little too slick and pretty when dealing with the harsh realities of human trafficking. Catherine Alexander’s direction allows the audience to follow the various stories that are being told with ease, allowing the voices of the victims who were interviewed to be clear and emotive. Each storyline has a unique voice, from the Latvian girl forced into sexual slavery, to the young African girl, working as a domestic slave for a middle class family. A further success of this work is the prison narrative, where a woman has been sentenced to a prison term for trafficking children into the United Kingdom. This is a woman perceived her crime; dropping children off with a man at a British airport, as a means to feed her own, and truly believed they were coming to Britain for a better life. The writing presents it’s audience with a conflict, to hate her actions, but perhaps, to understand the desperation of her situation and genuine naivety. This storyline intelligently breaks up the more conventional lines of discussion and provides further food for thought.
There are several interjections of movement, which although are delivered with high quality conviction, and obviously have been created from the topical stimulus being explored, are perhaps superfluous to the hard hitting drama presented in the rest of the work. Particularly successful are the moments of direct address from the key players in the UK field of Human Trafficking confronts the audience with facts and realities of the UK trafficking climate. Short, episodic scenes expose the various forms of contemporary slavery, how the victims are controlled, how they are abused and perhaps most shockingly, the little help they receive once they have escaped this life.
The cast, all of whom are from Central School of Speech Drama, deal with the material with honest sensitivity, allowing the audience to feel for the victims and truly hate the captors. The cast for the most part tackle at least two parts each, switch between characters with ease and sophistication, the entire company are strong, however it is Laura Dewey’s presentation of Maria, a child big issue seller and Denise Marshall Director of the Poppy Project, who stands out, finding truth and integrity in each character.
Although at times it is possible to suggest the movement sequences are superfluous to the work, both Catherine Alexander and the ensemble combine perfectly to deliver a movement piece depicting the brutal and violent realities many of these victims face. Strobe lighting and mixed media add to the impact this section has, taking the action from large scale moments depicting a variety of victims facing physical violence and abuse, to the focused moment, played out on a small television screen where a captor goes one step to far. Here the movement finds the realities in the subject, and allows the audience to connect further with the subject.
Verbatim theatre is about message and fact, Sold is a challenging piece confronting its audience with the harsh realities of human trafficking in the UK and Europe. Although at times the aesthetics of the piece lead it somewhat off message, for the main part it succeeds its important quest to raise awareness on human trafficking, and ultimately, the audience are left asking “What can I do to help?”