Review: Little Stitches, Theatre503

“They held me down, My mother’s knees in my chest. Keeping me still. As that man sliced right into my soul.”

Four short plays on female genital mutilation (FGM) might be something of a hard sell on paper but in the flesh, this BAREtruth production is as stimulating as it is harrowing in its thought-provoking sweep across the ways in which this practice has encroached into our society and our own complicity in letting it happen. Alex Crampton ingeniously directs a company of five in Little Stitches in a way which never preaches yet still asks its questions in a searching enough manner that means one doesn’t get off the hook that easily.

Isley Lynn’s opening Sleight of Hand is the most effective of the pieces in that respect, combining five monologues from different members of society on the periphery of FGM, each suspecting that something isn’t quite right but unsure about what if anything they might be able to do. From teachers to ice-cream vendors, a slyly comic tone seduces us in and then leaves us disarmed as the reality of what these women are forced to endure becomes apparent.

Elsewhere, verbatim accounts from survivors speak with brutal honesty, Bahar Brunton turns the light onto the cultural propagation of the practice by the very women who have experienced it, the shining light of a 14 year old schoolgirl is crushingly dimmed as the holidays start but we see that her ordeal is just beginning. Shalini Peiris excels here, there’s good work from Daphne Alexander and one of my favourite actresses from last year Shuna Show is captivatingly fantastic throughout. Far from an easy night at the theatre but an entirely worthwhile one.

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 27th August then playing the Arcola and the Gate

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