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Review: Bullet Hole, at Park Theatre

Gloria Williams’ brave play spares us no detail as it lays bare the abnormality of a cultural norm

12 October, 2018 — By Angela Cobbinah

Gloria Williams as Cleo, left, and Doreene Blackstock as Eve in Bullet Hole. Photo: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography

WHEN Cleo went on holiday to Sierra Leone aged seven she underwent FGM, a “gift” her family told her. Now a 20-something woman who suffers mental and physical torment from her “f***d up flesh”, she wants to give the gift back and have the procedure surgically reversed.

This is the starting point of Gloria Williams’ bleak new play that lays bare the abnormality of a cultural norm that scars women for life but whose biggest defenders are its victims. It is a difficult subject but someone had to write it.

Cleo, raised in Britain and bolshie with it, finds herself up against the two people she turns to for help, combative Auntie Winnie (Anni Domingo) and submissive Eve (Doreene Blackstock). One insists that being “cut” is God’s way of protecting women, the other begs her “to play the game”. But lingering in the shadows is the threat of an entire community being maligned should Cleo, who is played by Williams herself, decide to get the stitches removed.

There are few light moments in a play that spares us no detail of the horrors FGM causes. Auntie Winnie may accuse Cleo of being a witch but she herself is haunted by the loss of a baby due to an obstructed labour, while Eve is resigned to never becoming pregnant.

Although the denouement is somewhat unconvincing, this is a brave piece of writing that is ably supported by the three actors, in particular Williams who beautifully expresses Cleo’s anguish as she seeks to break free but feels the heavy hand of tradition on her shoulder.

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