A daughter trafficked. A mother left behind.
Baillie Room, Assembly Hall
4th - 29th August 2016
story of modern day slavery from a novel perspective. The emotional and psychological journey that steered a young woman to be trafficked into the sex market runs parallel to a mother's struggle to reconcile with the past and bring her daughter home.
This remarkable tale of the unexpected is inspired by the real stories of women who have had their bodies and their lives stolen for exploitation. The Fringe debut of playwright and best-selling author SALLY LEWIS (contributor to Danny Boyle's Winter Shuffle), How Is Uncle John? explores the unthinkable from a new viewpoint, of the mother left behind.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
Having researched human trafficking for a previous project, I made contact with several agencies to talk to those who work with survivors and the woman trafficked. These women were adults, all over the age of 18. According to the authorities they are not missing and therefore no one will help you look for them.
Their stories are harrowing and time and time again I found myself drawn to the mother of the victim. What must it be like to know your daughter was trafficked? What could you have done? What didn’t you see? I found it compelling.
As a mother myself with grown up children I wondered just what the impact might be when your adult child goes missing and no one will help you. It was the mother’s voice I found myself compelled to write.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I had worked with the Director, Ben Mills before on a few occasions. I knew with Ben in the directing chair the team gathering would be creative, nurturing and professional. He told me not to stress as he went about drawing up a list… What we have is the most marvellous Jodyanne Richardson, a woman of many talents and Miriam Rune, our Scotland-based asset.
How did you become interested in making performance?
Since I was three and bursting out from behind the curtains to entertain the long suffering family I’ve been making up stories and plays. It took many years before I found writing as the creative process and now I’m very happy having come full circle back to performance, only this time I do the writing and others do the performing.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Mainly yes. I like to sit down and write and create then hand the work over. Ben was wonderful, skilfully picking up on threads and probing into the characters. The rehearsal room of course is where you really start to see if your words make sense and have rhythm. It makes everything come alive and breathe its own life into the words that you think you have created.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I want them to come out talking about the story. I want them to maybe think about human trafficking in another way. That it can happen to anyone, and they’re always someone’s daughter or son.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I have long been interested in the woman’s voice, particularly the older woman, how woman are judged, and what confinements society puts on them.
Only the other day, the press were debating the hem lengths of the two women in the Tory leadership battle. Somehow the future of the Prime Minister in 2016 hung on the length of a skirt. And then there’s sex and power and the exploitation of women, robbing them of any voice. Trafficked women are in the main invisible.
How does a woman fall prey to the traffickers? What happens to those whose lives are stolen and sold? Why do they not call out? How does it feel to be a mother whose adult child has been trafficked? How does society judge these women? These are the themes behind the stories I tell, so they can become real, so they are ‘seen’, so we can help story this trade.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I suppose I write from a feminist point of view, the theatre has long been a tool for political and social commentary although women are desperately underrepresented in mainstream theatre; the Edinburgh Festival Fringe gives us the opportunity to balance this gender disparity.
Sally has worked closely with charities including Stop the Traffik and Unseen to develop the play, interviewing women who have been trafficked, their families and the organisations who support them.
When Hope was young, her mother did everything she could to ensure her daughter was safe. As she grew more independent, Hope began to slip from her mother's fingers. Years later, Hope has fallen in love. When she goes on holiday with her new partner, a few days turn into months. At home, sick with worry, Hope's mother receives a telephone call.
Director BEN MILLS runs Creative Garage, a collective of theatre makers in the South of England. He's a former JMK Assistant Director of the Salisbury Playhouse and will later this year be a Jerwood Assistant Director at the Young Vic.
This production has been developed with the support of Arts Council England, Nuffield Theatre Southampton and Virtus Contracts.
Venue: Assembly Hall, Baillie Room, Mound Place, EH1 2LU
Time: 15:00 Running Time: 60mins
Dates: 04 – 29 August. Previews 4-5 August. No show Tues 16 August.
Preview Southampton Nuffield, University Road, Southampton SO17 1TR, 29 July, 19.30
Tickets: Previews £6; 6-7, 10-11, 15, 17-18, 22-25 & 29 August £10 (£9); 8-9, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 August £11 (£10)