Roadkill - Cora Bissett interview

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Home Truths: Human Trafficking

The shocking realities of human trafficking come under the spotlight in a new off piece of work. Anna Millar meets its maker

It’s an unusually hot Glasgow afternoon and actress-cum-director Cora Bissett is holed up in a small, dark tenement flat in the southside of Glasgow. She’s here to rehearse Roadkill, an intensely intimate examination of human trafficking. Later this month, 12 unwitting audience members will arrive at the Tron Theatre, only to be transported to this unnkown location, as the drama unfolds. ‘I wanted it to be off-site to really help tell the story,’ explains director Bissett. ‘By taking the audience out of the comfort of the theatre, you really get the sense that this horrific situation is happening here and now.’

Inspired by the experiences of young women trafficked to Scotland, the story revolves around a young teenager in Benin City, who, struggling to support her family, makes the journey to a Glasgow tenement to meet ‘aunty’ Martha, who has arranged a ‘job’ and flight for her. Combining video, music and performance, Bissett hopes to scratch far beneath the surface and take the story beyond sensationalist headlines. ‘I was keen for the journey to begin as soon as audiences got in the bus. I really wanted to feel like they were on the journey with her. You can’t know the extent of the problem because it’s housed in flats just like these, making the girls untraceable,’ continues Bissett.

‘It’s not screaming out like a brothel, with a light outside, it could be happening on anybody’s street, on your street, and you wouldn’t know.’

On the morning of our interview, a quick news search suggests that as many as 10 organised crime gangs are involved in human trafficking in Scotland alone. Reports from the Scottish Government suggest that up to one-quarter of child asylum seekers found unaccompanied in Glasgow may have been the victims of trafficking. Those who are found are often too scared to testify. Bissett – who many will remember for her recent extraordinary performance in David Grieg’s 2009 hit Midsummer – is keen to avoid preaching, preferring rather to allow the audience to respond to the girl on their own terms

‘The double shock here is that it is often other women who lure these girls over. You hear a lot about Eastern European gangs – but often it is older woman taking advantage of younger girls, giving them hope of a better future, You can’t even imagine how psychologically damaging that is. It becomes like a domestic abuse relationship. These girls have no idea what they are going to.’

Presented by Ankur Productions in association with Pachamama Productions and Tron Theatre, with support from Scottish Refugee Council, the project has been a long time in the making, and Bissett is delighted by the response. With tickets now sold out for its upcoming Tron run, audiences will get a chance to see it in August at the Fringe, and later in the year when it returns for a second run at the Tron.

‘My job is to share stories with people, I’m not a politician or a human rights worker,’ says Bissett. ‘But there’s a demand in our society. It’s about fathers, sons, uncles and boyfriends having sex with people against their will and it’s happening here and now. These girls have no choice in being there.
‘We have to ask why we are letting this happen, and I hope people go away thinking about that.’

Roadkill

Off-site performance following a young girl as she travels from Nigeria to Edinburgh hoping for a new life but discovering the reality of sex-trafficking. Directed by Cora Bissett. 'Part of the IETM Biannual Plenary'.

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