Thursday, 7 May 2015

Rites

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It's the close-up of a razor blade that strikes you first in this unflinching study of Female Genital Mutilation co-created by director Cora Bissett with actor and writer Yusra Warsama. Beyond the simple out-front declaration of the play's verbatim status by Paida Mutonono, who plays Fara, a young woman who realises she is the victim of something neutered to the more user-friendly FGM, it's this flash of cold steel that makes you flinch as it is projected onto hospital screens care of Kim Beveridge's video collage.

What follows over the next ninety minutes is a patchwork of first-hand experience of this most hidden form of abuse and the complex roots that sired it. Victims, campaigners and even a cutter tell their stories from as far afield as Gambia and Somalia to as close to home as Manchester, Bristol and Scotland. There is commentary too from social workers, lawyers and academics, all woven together in an understated if relentlessly troubling litany of everyday barbarism.

There's a starkness to this co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Manchester-based Contact company with support from the Scottish Refugee Council and the Dignity Alert Research Forum. This comes through in both the playing style of Mutonono, Janet Kumah, James Mackenzie, Beth Marshall and Elena Pavli, who between them play a global village's worth of parts. This is leavened, both by a surprisingly witty script as dramaturged by George Aza-Selinger and the sensitive pulse of Patricia Panther's electronic score. When the entire ensemble sing Bissett, Dougal Gudim and Hilary Brooks' low-key musical setting of Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise, it sounds unexpectedly but joyously triumphal.
 
The Herald, May 8th 2015

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