New Kabosh play exposes silent trade in human suffering

New Kabosh play exposes silent trade in human suffering

A powerful new play commissioned by Kabosh Theatre Company will shine a light on the hidden world of modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland. 

Silent Trade, written by Belfast playwright Rosemary Jenkinson, exposes the human misery lurking in the leafy suburbs and student areas of Belfast through the plight of a young female immigrant forced into domestic servitude and prostitution to pay off debts owed to her traffickers. 

Kabosh Artistic Director Paula McFetridge said reports of recent police operations against people traffickers had increased public awareness of what previously had been an invisible crime. 

She explained: “Rosemary and I have been talking about tackling this important subject for three and a half years and now the time is right to expose what is happening behind the curtains of homes across the north.” 

New laws on modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland came into effect 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 late last year when the PSNI raided 27 brothels across Northern Ireland and charged two people on 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’. 

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to support this new production from Kabosh Theatre Company and writer Rosemary Jenkinson which demonstrates the power of using the arts as a tool to create awareness and discussion around challenging subjects in society.  Well done to all involved.”   

As part of her research for the play, Rosemary spoke to members of the Nigerian community who had knowledge of human trafficking. She used these conversations to create the fictionalised story of Precious, a young Nigerian 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 in a brothel in a rundown house in the Tate’s Avenue area. She is played by Nigerian-born Lizzy Akinbami in her first stage role. 

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

Lizzy is joined 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 her when she enters the brothel.  

Kabosh regular, James Doran plays Rab, a pimp and brothel owner who ‘buys’ Precious from Erin to work in one of his properties. 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 marks a turning point in her experience.  

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

Silent Trade premieres at the Lyric Theatre on February 22, playing there until February 26, before going on the road to the Old Courthouse in Antrim on February 28, the Market Place Theatre, Armagh on March 3, Dundalk Institute of Technology, March 4and Ranfurly House, Dungannon on March 5. 

For more information go to: 

Presented with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Leche Trusts, and the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation.

Kabosh are core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, and The Garfield Weston Foundation.

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