FRINGE REVIEW – Fair Trade by Shatterbox Theatre (Pleasance Dome)


11 – 30 August (not 16 or 23)
1530-1630, Pleasance Dome

Based as it is on interviews with victims of the sex trafficking trade, it would have been easy for Fair Trade, Shatterbox’s debut Edinburgh performance, to have been full of preaching worthiness and heavily-delivered messages.

By dramatising the accounts and incorporating some clever and effective stagecraft and direction however, the company succeed in presenting a piece which is as entertaining as it is hard-hitting and thought provoking.

Anna Holbek and Sarah Amankwah play Elena and Samai, young women from Eastern Europe and Africa who are duped into arriving illegally into the UK and forced into a horrific and meaningless existence as prostitutes. Both actresses succeed in portraying the fear, resignation and ultimate strength of their characters, as they find themselves helpless against the men (and women) who trick them, and a society which at best turns a blind eye to their plight.

The cast perform inside a skeletal metal frame, with cardboard boxes being used to cleverly create bedrooms, police interrogation rooms and brothels, but also as a metaphor for human beings as packed and shipped product.

A haunting live score accompanies the narrative, performed by the cast themselves, who also take it in turns to play the pimps, clients and authorities the girls encounter. Some scenes, such as the harrowing and uncomfortable auction sequence, or the dreamlike pantomime segment, draw attention away from the reality of the situation – but do so in a way which adds dramatic impact rather than detract from it.

By the end of the piece, Shatterbox have aroused feelings of compassion, revulsion and guilt in a performance which presents a no-holds-barred and non-patronising insight into a shady and terrifying world we know little about.

Executive producer Emma Thompson as quoted as being ‘extremely proud’ of Fair Trade, and on the strength of Shatterbox’s mature and compelling production, her pride is well-placed.

Ticket information is available on the Pleasance website.

Review by Keith D

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