Delighted that your production of BULLET HOLE has transferred to Park Theatre after its debut at Etcetera Theatre in last year’s Camden Fringe.
Has the play changed a lot since then?
Not excessively in the core and main story plot. We had our first script tested at the Camden Fringe Festival 2017 and recorded all the notes given from reviewers, friends, industry professionals. Hence in the new upgraded version, Gloria Williams, the writer, with the support of dramaturg and Park artistic director Melli Marie, has better outlined and defined the FGM problem, has done more character development work and has refined the piece to a better theatrical script.
It’s brave subject matter shining light on the practice of FGM. What kind of response have you had to the show?
The Camden Fringe Festival run was well received, which was the encouraging aspect that lead in promoting the piece to another level. it is quite a delicate theme so inevitably it will create controversial opinions
What really attracted you to the story?
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. It's the
relationship between the three female characters in the play and how the balances constantly keep changing. To my shock, FGM was a topic I knew nothing about. I realised that like myself many probably were oblivious to it and I felt it necessary to change that by participating in the fight with my small share of support.
One of the beauties is Gloria William’s script is that its quite rhythmical, but it’s hard hitting at the same time. How do you get the balance between enjoying a wordsmith and getting to grips with its subject matter?
This area has improved further in the new version as Gloria has balanced out truthful dramatic moments with more light- weighted scenes during which the characters are bonding and are emotionally connecting. And this last point is what comes across strong as there is a realization of hope and love as a theme and the knowledge that the "hero" will eventually see the light and fight the system which is imposing FGM.
The play is a story of hope, love and human rights. Is it a harrowing watch for the audience?
It is a provocative piece so It will ultimately provide an insight to the complexity which defines human nature in relation to life events and injustice. Victory is presented to reinforce the idea that help is possible and fights can lead to success stories, but will come with a cost. Inevitably the emotional baggage will prove itself the most difficult layer to handle.
As a director, how do you prepare for this?
Scripts are like a "heart" on a rollercoaster. They need to offer suspense, drama, anticipation, information, light hearted moments and light at the end of a tunnel.
I tend to work very much on character work and energy betweens the actors on stage. The unsaid words are the most touching part and the tension that can arise in this is the most engaging bit which ultimately draws in people and connects them to the passion and struggles the character are going through. Audience become empathetic with the stories told and will want to seek for resolutions within the complex layers we as humans live in.
Where does the practice come from originally? Is it religion based? Is it country specific? And is it important to be aware of its roots?
I honestly am not qualified enough to hand out detailed notions and data on FGM. However, the eight charities on board, who are coming for 2 post show Q&A evenings (10th- 18th of October) will be the best source to seek answers from.
The one thing I can say, which has been shocking for me to hear while conversing with charity leaders on the subject matter, is that the issue is far more geographically spread than a simple pin on a map. There are far more political and financial elements involved that the word "culture" becomes almost a cover up for.
It is important to consider FGM as an act against human/women/children rights and fight for that no matter where it is coming from. It is not a problem that relates to one ethnicity only: it is an issue nested within society acting violently against simple rights we ALL should have the "luxury" to be born with.
How did you work with actors to get their best performances?
I work with the concept of energy in a space and how the "ball of fire filled with convoluted passion/rage/love/hope" moves: it can float in between two equally strong characters, it can be held by one only, it can shift the dynamics and levels and erupt in light or dim down in a corner. The universe on stage is in constant need for balance and that is how I direct the actors when it comes to creating a relationship with all the characters in a room.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to sharing with an audience?
Emotions and the clear message that we can fight this, strength is out there and the new generation will not close their eyes or avoid to voice out what is wrong with society. Gloria and I would love for the audience to walk out of the theatre and feel empowered by the knowledge that the more this problem ( or any other problem) is addressed, the more we can save lives and prevent such brutal practice to take place further.
The play is directed by Lara Genovese (founder of Naiad Productions) and stars Gloria Williams (who is also the playwright), Doreene Blackstock and Anni Domingo.
BULLET HOLE is supported by the following charities:
UnCUT/VOICES, COUNCIL OF EX-MUSLIMS, THE VAVENGERS, SAFE HANDS FOR GIRLS, 28 TOO MANY, NATIONAL FGM CENTRE, LA FRATERNITE GUINEÉNNE, FORWARD, GLOBAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO END FGM, THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF MIDWIVES
@September 2018 London Pub Theatres Magazine Ltd
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(left to right):
Gloria Williams as Cleo, Doreene Blackstock as Eve, Anni Domingo as Winnie
At Park 90,
02 – 27 Oct 2018
www.parktheatre.co.uk / 020 7870 6876
Performances: Mon – Sat Evenings 7.45pm, Thu & Sat Matinees 3.15pm
Access Performances: Captioned performance, Fri 26 Oct, 19.45
Naiad Productions will also be hosting an Anti FMG portrait exhibition (Sept to Nov) in Park Theatre’s foyer, which will include pictures of survivors, activists, volunteers and industry members who support the cause. Additionally, there will be two performances followed by Q&A sessions with Charity and NHS lead representatives (10th and 18th of October).
“I have always been passionate about exposing the issues affecting the black community. My first play ‘Monday’ explored child abuse in a Black British religious family."