This is my body, one-woman play, report by Pauline Monk

THIS IS MY BODY – Performance at St James Theatre, Victoria, put on by Ten Ten Theatre Group and The Medaille Trust.

This one-woman play was superbly performed by Agata Jaroszin.  It was the powerful story of a young Romanian woman (Josephine/Sophie)  found working as a prostitute in the UK who showed “reasonable grounds” to suspect that she was a victim of human trafficking.  Via the NRM she is given 45 days to “reflect and recover” in a safe house, which we discover is run by nuns.  Her main contact is Sister Bernadette “you can call me Bernie” who through Sophie’s telling and sometimes humorous narrative, we come to admire for her persistence and efforts to engage with Sophie.

When we meet Sophie she is in her bedroom, sparsely furnished , but she has the key, which is an important symbol of her freedom.   We find that the crucifix on the wall was removed to a drawer.

Sophie  tells us with warmth about her boyfriend Alex, whom she met when she was 14, and loves because he is kind, gentle with her, her family like him (except her mother, who thinks he is too old for her and is suspicious of him), and she willingly goes to London with him otherwise she will not see him for 3 or 4 months.  She says that Alex warned her about people who would try to turn her against him, but that he loves her, and would not harm her – it is not his fault that he is in trouble and she would never betray him to Bernie or the police, who keep asking her questions about him.

Clearly she is in denial over her circumstances; very certain that she has chosen to have sex with men in order to help her boyfriend, Alex, who needs the money to pay off his debt to a “bad man”.  She shows violence when challenged about her situation, but over the length of the play (and over the 45 days she has which are gradually dwindling), she starts to question herself, and gradually her story of deception, grooming, betrayal, comes out until on the last day she finally realises the extent to which she been betrayed by her “true love”.  Left bereft, cigarette burns that are revealed (stigmata?) “this is my body” (the crucifix went back on the wall about two thirds of the way through the play), we are left in tears, feeling her emotional pain, seeing her hopeless and helpless, and wondering what the future holds for her.

The play reveals the shocking reality of sex trafficking and the failure of the system to adequately respond to and support the victims.  It showed powerfully and relentlessly that 45 days can be insufficient time for a highly traumatised victim to recover sufficiently to be able to walk free and move forward.

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