Edinburgh Festival: Diablo (3 stars)

Is there anyone at the Edinburgh Fringe who isn’t aware of the issue of sex trafficking?
Every year, there are at least a few high-profile plays telling stories that aren’t any less harrowing because they’re depressingly familiar. But what this one – which follows a group of immigrants and drifters tricked into prostitution, servitude and drug dependency in Northern Ireland – does so well is show that friendships can exist in the bleakest of circumstances.

“It’s very graphic,” a woman says as we go in. She’s not exaggerating: a man sticking a needle into his arm seems relatively tame after Ukrainian Olva arrives, expecting to work as a waitress, and is raped first by dead-eyed pimp Ruben and then by a stag party.

At times it’s a very difficult piece to watch but at others it gives a human face to people who are often only described in terms of headlines.

Patricia Downey’s warm and authentic writing astutely captures extreme lives lived out in the normality of an average living room.

Julie Maxwell is outstanding as sassy, blunt Irishwoman Alana, trapped between doing what’s right and saving herself. But the moment she makes her choice, the show abruptly ends, denying us the chance to see any of its consequences.

Written for The Scotsman

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