A verbatim play about human trafficking and modern day slavery, done in the style of Out of Joint crossed with Complicité, is not the most surprising or ground-breaking thing to find on the fringe.
But the subject is so important, and still so little recognised, that one more theatrical mini-uproar won’t do any harm. As the talented cast of recent graduates at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London make clear, shocking abuse goes on in all sorts of ways, 200 years after William Wilberforce abolished slavery in America.
And we obsess about “regime change” in other countries. Eighty children in Scotland alone were “trafficked” in the last 18 months. This is a £20bn worldwide industry – in the sex trade, domestic service, sale of children – and more money is spent on conferences discussing it than on helping or liberating the victims.
Catherine Alexander’s production starts with a confusing babble of sound and fury, but settles into several narrative strands: the Latvian hostess exploited by her thuggish Russian pimps; a Big Issue-selling street urchin befriended by a social do-gooder; the Romany girl, a mother at 13, kept as a sex slave; a Czech woman operating as an agent for the bartering of an entire village of children.
The show still feels like an outline for a stronger, more coherent and inter-connected theatrical piece, but the urgency and commitment of the fourteen-strong cast compensate for this weakness, and there are some superbly drilled set pieces in nightclubs, on trains and right through the human jungle.