Sold

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 02:39 on 15th Aug 2011

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SOLD, a devised piece created by graduates of the Central School of Speech & Drama in collaboration with The Human Trafficking Foundation, explores the turbulent and complex realities of modern human trafficking. Anthony Steen (played by Peter Randall) introduces the piece, describing it as the result of a series of conversations; indeed, much of the devised material is based on original interviews. The production is visually and conceptually superb, initially taking the audience on a journey through the history of slavery to draw analogies between past and present forms of imperialism and oppression: the stage and cast rapidly transform to represent the Mongol Empire, Ancient Greece and Egypt and Portuguese imperial expansion in Africa amongst others. The audience is attacked by a flood of disparate visual and audial input from the actors on stage, voiceovers on a loudspeaker and projections on three on-stage screens, a harrowing effect which only enhances the power of this piece. The airport-style seats at the back of the stage, coupled with the pre-recorded projections and sound effects, move seats through cities and villages through airports, buses and pouring rain, emphasizing that these scenes of horror take place here and everywhere. The entire production team should be congratulated for their excellent work in granting the group's ideas visual representation.

This is an unequivocally stellar cast, with a number of actors playing more than one role in quick succession. The script resists entirely conventional and linear narratives, diving into the lives of different individuals and groups affected by human trafficking. Actors seamlessly inhabit alternate lives and identities in their appearances on stage, adopting accents and nationalities as they go - Martins Imhangbe acts both as a Nigerian slave on a cocoa plantation and a worldly Londoner, for example, without missing a beat. As Aija, a Latvian girl tricked and trapped by the slave trade, Paula Videniece awes - her work both on stage and in pre-recorded material is gripping. This is a big cast, but each member is extremely talented and there is not a weak link in sight - despite its size and the script's delineation of several separate storylines, the group are well-coordinated, moving like one body.

The piece focuses on several elements of human trafficking usually ignored, including internal trafficking within the UK. It notes the discrepancies between government policies on trafficking and social realities, but offers hope in showing that in remaining silent, we too are complicit in these acts of cruelty - and are therefore able to do something about it. The audience is stunned, unable to do anything other than stare at the atrocities played out on stage. This is highly intelligent, informed theatre which does not patronize or preach. This is brutal, without being offensive. SOLD demonstrates that we do not have to choose between theatre and socio-political engagement, between artistic success and dignity.

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