In a dark and claustrophobic cellar echoing with the faint clatters and clangs from the bar upstairs, two nine year old Nigerian girls, Tunde and Bola, discuss their day to day existence as the victims of sex trafficking.
Rebecca Pritchard’s short play, originally staged in London as part of Clean Break’s Charged season, exposes the horrendous abuse to which such children are subject, while emphasising the childhood the girls have been denied. The performers, Danielle Vitalis and Samantha Pearl, interact with the audience, in a way that is playful but also desperate, plaintive. This interaction is incredibly well-handled, by both the cast members and the director, Tessa Walker; the girls are endearing and wide-eyed , but the stories they tell make the audience increasingly uncomfortable, as they sugar inappropriate situations with childlike language – when men bleed, we are told, it is ‘white and sticky’.
Soon the truth of their situation emerges as the girls become increasingly terrified about the arrival of a sinister ‘boss man’. Tessa Walker’s production (originally staged in the basement bar of Soho Theatre) is simply designed, the set bare, the lighting sparse; the props used, the girls’ few possesions – a shoe, some rough and basic mats, a pillow – all become items that the girls not only treasure, but also consider to have magical qualities.
What stops the piece from being unrelenting is the performers’ delivery; their English is accented and they speak with childlike haste, with sporadic bursts of energy. This leads to some of what they try to tell the audience being lost; we are obliged to piece together the events that have lead to their imprisonment through the details we pick up along the way: a grandmother, an air hostess, their arrival in London.
The climax of the piece provides a startling reiteration of what has happened to these girls and what is going to continue happening to them. As Tunde, in her oversized dress and messy lipstick, walks towards the door, the taps of her sparkly high-heeled shoes map it out, the brutal reality behind their escapist fantasies.