Home » London Theatre Reviews » Bullet Hole by Gloria Williams at Park Theatre | Review

Bullet Hole by Gloria Williams at Park Theatre | Review

Bullet Hole by Gloria Williams - Photo Credit: Lara Genovese for #naiadphotography
Bullet Hole by Gloria Williams – Photo Credit: Lara Genovese for #naiadphotography

Londoner Cleo (Gloria Williams) was given a ‘gift’ at age seven – a gift that has left her with type 3 Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Bullet Hole (written by Gloria Williams) is a powerful play that explores a violent offense against human rights. One that isn’t oft spoken about or rendered in the form of a play. Williams has tackled this issue head-on, making no attempts to be euphemistic or soften the painful reality of women who survive these procedures. The courage of the writing is by far the play’s greatest strength.

Bullet Hole also features three powerhouse characters – three women with different views on what FGM means both to the individual and the community. Cleo is scarred and seeking relief. Eve, played fabulously by Doreene Blackstock, has experienced all the frustration and isolation delivered to her by a body that doesn’t allow her to become a mother. Aunt Winnie, again powerfully portrayed by Anni Domingo, is the staunch traditionalist, aiming to influence these younger women in her community.

It is so excellent to watch these three women unfurl on stage, working through all the pain and conflict of a community tradition in direct contradiction of both their bodies and a modern, Western lifestyle. That female bodies have been a battleground of cultural, religious and gendered expectations is not news, but this very specific exploration of a particular community, a particular practice, raised for me a new awareness. A new, deeper understanding, beyond the fact that FGM exists. For me, it is a practice that is so foreign – it has never
registered with me culturally or with my body, as a woman. And yet it is the case that women in modern-day London have survived this practice; communities are still engaged in the tradition. A powerful insight into the harsh realities of our world.

Lara Genovese directs Bullet Hole with sensitivity and grace; having also designed the play, the set is evocative and rich and does much to demonstrate just how ‘normal’ these women’s lives might otherwise be. They listen to music, dance, and yet, a dark reality undercuts all of it.

There are some issues, and they are mostly with character and some lines that appear to have been dropped here and there. Having been given a copy of the play text, I can see that certain key lines from Cleo were omitted – crucially, the truth behind Aunt Winnie’s dead son, the reason he died, is alluded to. But there was a line nestled between other heightened emotional outpourings, omitted in the performance I viewed. While I still understood the implications, lines like these were rather important in understanding the dynamic between Aunt Winnie and Cleo, who otherwise antagonise each other without any real sense of why they would co-exist in the first place. Even the play’s title, which comes explained in amongst other passionate shouting, seemed to have been skipped. As a result of these small issues with the lines, important details have been missed in the performance I saw.

The character of Cleo also left me with questions – it’s unclear why she doesn’t act on her feelings much sooner, given that she’s aware of where help can be found and she’s of a strongly rebellious nature from the outset. I had thought the details thrown in about her uncle or similar might have come into play here, giving her a reason to feel guilty or beholden to her family more than her rebellious and outspoken nature would suggest. Instead, she is quite clearly against the family from the beginning, making the context of the play a little confusing. If she’d been more clearly obligated to the family, I might have better understood her hesitation simply to leave the house.

Information on the play copy did influence my understanding of this, because I really didn’t quite get this from the play itself. I never quite understood why Cleo was sent specifically to Aunt Winnie’s house, and the relationship between her and Eve was unclear – I couldn’t tell if they knew each other or not, initially.

Regardless, there is a lot to take away from Bullet Hole, more than just information on the issue. The individual and community impacts of the practice are laid bare, and there are some absolutely heart-wrenching and soul shifting moments in this play. In particular, a discussion between Cleo and Eve in the kitchen resonated strongly; their discussion of sex, of their bodies, of how life should be, was incredibly moving. The taking back of a female body as a legitimate instrument of pleasure and love – contrary to the sin and blood and pain with which these two women have associated their bodies until that point – was particularly important and touching. There were certainly more than a few tears amongst the audience members at my viewing of the play.

Bullet Hole is a powerful production and will leave you with much more to consider and question. The Park continue to support unique stories of local communities, and it is a pleasure to see.

4 stars

Review by Christina Care

Bullet Hole explores the relationship between three Black, British born women who are survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The piece explores the physical, mental and emotional effects this practice causes and shines a light on the institutions in Britain that can offer support. At its heart, Bullet Hole is a story of hope, love and human rights, played by an all-female cast.

Bullet Hole first premiered at the 2017 Camden Fringe Festival and later was nominated for the Alfred Fagon Audience Choice Award. Freedom Tongues and Naiad Productions are delighted to be working with Park Theatre to present this re-worked version of the script.

The play is directed by Lara Genovese (founder of Naiad Productions) and stars Gloria Williams (who also wrote the play), Doreene Blackstock and Anni Domingo.

What’s in a gift? Young Londoner Cleo was given her ‘gift’ at age seven – except that ‘gift’ left her with type 3 Female Genital Mutilation. How can Cleo love her body, when she is further scarred by a brutal sexual assault at the hands of her husband? From this hideous act, Cleo resolves to go against her family’s wishes and seek reversal surgery. On her journey of healing, she meets Eve, a fellow FGM survivor who is instantly drawn to her…

Q&A with Lara Genovese – Director of Bullet Hole

Creative Team
Writer – Gloria Williams
Producers – Gloria Williams and Lara Genovese
Director – Lara Genovese
Creative Assistant – Emma Zadow
Sound Designer – Ed Clarke
Lighting Designer – Rajiv Pattani
Designer – Lara Genovese
Photography – Naiad Photography
DSM – Ricky McFadden
Social Media Marketing- Roberto Landi

Freedom Tongues & Naiad Productions in association with Park Theatre present

Bullet Hole
By Gloria Williams
Directed by Lara Genovese
Plays: 2nd – 27th Oct 2018

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  • Christina Carè

    'Christina is just another Aussie in London, writing about the arts and signing up for all the weird performance productions the city has to offer. She is Content Editor at Spotlight and tweets from @christinacare.'

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