Freedom Tongues & Naiad Productions in association with SundaySurgeryScripts
Gloria Williams play Bullet Hole is a thoughtful, often poetic exploration of the different responses to female genital mutilation (FGM) of three women. It is both perceptive and dramatically engaging. It encourages you to care not only for those opposed to FGM but also for those who continue to believe it necessary.
FGM causes numerous physical and emotional problems that don’t just go away with age. But it doesn’t mean that those who suffer these problems seek help.
When Cleo (Gloria Williams) was seven, she told her father about a sexually abusive uncle. His response was to send her to her Aunt Winnie where she was forcibly given type 3 FGM.
Now in her late twenties, Cleo longs for a more normal life and is thinking of having surgery that will open scar tissue over the entrance to her vagina.
Her family is opposed to this, which creates difficulties. But as she explains “I need my family, but I need to get back what my daddy stole from me.”
The play opens with her lying on a bed in her Aunt Winnie’s home refusing to speak. Her Aunt has brought Eve (Josephine Samson), a woman in her thirties, to try and bring Cleo round.
Winnie (Brig Bennett) is austere and is first seen carrying a Bible. She is certain FGM is a gift from God to man and important to the community. Claiming surgery will make Cleo vulnerable to rape and prostitution, she points out that it might also lead to prosecution and gaol for people.
Cleo is bitter with those she calls butchers and a husband she says raped her.
Although Eve regards FGM as necessary and can’t go along with a lot of what Cleo says, she also sees the problems it causes. Despite being married many years, she has still not had sexual intercourse because of FGM.
The misery inflicted by FGM on these three women also impacts badly on males. Winnie has lost a boy in childbirth because of her type 4 FGM. Eve’s husband has been reduced to tears.
Although the play’s subject matter and its development are sometimes disturbing, there are also moments of tenderness. A red dress Eve has made becomes a source of pleasure for Eve and Cleo as they take it in turns to try it on, seeming for a time to forget the differences they have had.
This is a fine production with strong performances that have been very sensitively directed by Lara Genovese.
The government has estimated that there are 170,000 women and girls in the UK who have suffered FGM and nearly 6,000 in 2016. Yet, despite the practice being illegal for over thirty years, there has not been a successful prosecution.
Gloria Williams's important play helps us understand some of the reasons why it continues and what the women who have suffered the practice can do to make their lives less painful.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna