Sex slave trade play exposes harsh reality

Play title: Fair Trade

Venue: Shatterbox Theatre Company, Pleasance Theatre, Islington, London

Shatterbox’s latest work highlights the plight of women caught up in sexual slavery. The play draws on true stories and follows two women on their journeys to the UK from Eastern Europe and Africa. Both end up trapped in the same awful trade.

Early on, the show quickly disabuses the audience of the sanitised notions of prostitution depicted in some television dramas. The lives portrayed couldn’t be more different from the happy-go-lucky prostitute in the recent series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Instead, we’re confronted with the unsentimental reality women caught up in sex slavery receiving a pittance and who only ever leave their cell-like bedrooms when they’re arrested by the police.

Fair Trade dispels other myths – most notably the misconception that the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished slavery. Smug politicians are shown congratulating each other on this bicentenary, but it’s uncomfortable viewing considering the vast numbers of women who continue to be caught up in sexual slavery – many just a short walk from Westminster.

Produced by Emma Thompson, and directed by Sue Colgrave, the show aims to raise awareness about the horrors of prostitution and sex trafficking. Financial backing from Thompson has secured a talented cast, decent set and great live music – features not always evident in fringe theatre.

This is campaigning theatre that focuses our attention on a largely hidden subculture. It serves as a talking point and as a rallying call to those involved in the campaign against sex trafficking. Thankfully there are moments of light relief such as when a member of the band lists statistics in a deadpan voice, inducing nervous laughter from the audience, but these interludes are a welcome release.

Throughout the show, men are demonised. That’s fair enough males are undeniably the problem. As one of the few men in the audience, I did feel the show lacked any strong positive male characters.

Published under the heading Emma Thompson puts Spotlight on Sex Slavery in the 5 March edition of Community Care

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