Bullet Hole at Park Theatre
Gloria Williams’s intriguing and significant play Bullet Hole, directed by Lara Genovese, spotlights the horrific and inhumane practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and its devastating effects on women.
Taking place in London and with a cast of three female characters – all survivors of FGM – the piece presents the subject realistically from varying perspectives: an older, more conservative Winnie (Anni Domingo), who believes in the ritual and seeks to convince the others that it is moral and right; a fortyish motherly Eve (Doreene Blackstock), sexually frustrated in her marriage and ambivalent about the tradition; and Cleo (Gloria Williams), a strong-willed 20-something, deeply traumatised by FGM who – as a result of a brutal sexual assault by her husband – is determined to have her own surgically reversed.
After escaping her abusive spouse, Cleo finds safe harbour with her Aunt Winnie, who then – with the help of her friend Eve – keeps the girl confined while attempting to persuade her to abandon her plans for surgery. Having been given her “gift” as a small child, a Type 3 FGM that caused her torturous agony, Cleo cannot reconcile such barbarity with her self-image as a modern 21st-century woman, and with the fact that this praxis is still happening in Britain today. The conflicted Eve becomes enamoured with Cleo and the situation is further complicated by suggestions of bisexuality and an ambiguous relationship between the two.
The effects of the irrationality and misery of FGM inflicted on women are clearly illustrated – the procedure involves not only cutting but also the sewing together of the genitals – however, it also negatively impacts men and endangers childbirth. Eve has not had sexual intercourse with her husband for many years, the latter for whom her condition has caused emotional misery, and Winnie lost her son while in labour because of the obstruction.
Highlighting an important social, feminist and politically dire human rights issue, Williams’s smart, forceful and moving writing, combined with excellent performances and Genovese’s perceptive direction, provides an educational and engaging theatrical experience. About a tough subject and not always easy to watch, Bullet Hole is balanced and genuine, while manifestly opposing FGM. Although the conflicts presented find no real resolution by the play’s end, the work is a bold invitation, leaving the viewer with new understanding and a strong sense of motivation for discussion, action and change.
Photo: Lara Genovese / Naiad Photography
Bullet Hole is at Park Theatre from 2nd until 27th October 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.