Three years ago an art installation in Trafalgar Square charted the journey of a sex-trafficked girl from Eastern Europe to a Western brothel. A powerful clarion call, it inspired Lucy Kirkwood's hit It Felt Empty When the Heart Went at First But It Is Alright Now. It also, it turns out, inspired Fair Trade, which arrives at the Fringe with Emma Thompson's endorsement as executive producer.
Fair Trade takes a more straightforward documentary approach than Kirkwood's witty, heart-rending drama, but it is no less vital for that. It tells the true stories of two trafficked women, Elena from Albania and Samai from Sudan. Both are tricked into exile by old friends and leave for London, "where gold grows on trees and everyone is offered a hug, a place to live and a modelling contract".
Without options in their home country – "What would you do?" they repeatedly ask us – it seems worth the risk. But they quickly find themselves without options once more, this time trapped in a vicious cycle of obligation and debt, ricocheting between brothel, prison and detention centre, with no hope of escape. No passport, no English, no choice.
Shatterbox's deft production interweaves their stories with vignettes – from girls being sold "to trade", like so many cattle at market, to stag dos staggering into a strip club without a second thought. Anna Holbek and Sarah Amankwah are strong as the girls but the power is in their stories, told here with unflinching honesty. They might sound familiar, but they still need to be heard.
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