Review by Esmee West-Agboola
Gloria Williams’ Bullet Hole at The Park Theatre is completely transparent in sharing the impact of type 3 Female Mutilation, on three different survivors.
The play is sobering. It ruthlessly places a magnifying lens on the trauma faced by Cleo (Gloria Williams), a young woman who was forced to undergo FGM at age 7. In the tradition of her Culture, this was a ‘gift’ and her route to womanhood. Throughout, we witness the extent of its long-term impact which prevents her ability to really ‘live’, while on her journey to seeking reversal surgery.
The explicit nature of the writing is appropriate for the depth of the issues at large. Williams undertones the entire play with an uncensored harshness, which conveys a disturbing sense of reality. However, at times, the heaviness of the plot can feel slightly overwhelming. The play could benefit from some lighter-toned scenes to counter our exposure to Cleo’s pain. Although Williams’ writing does effectively invite us to experience the multiple dimensions of how it manifests.
The complexities between the three women are what energise this piece. Aunt Winnie (Anni Domingo) consistently demonstrates the cultural traditions that position all three characters in their predicaments. But it is the relationship between Cleo and Eve (Doreene Blackstock), also an FGM survivor, that is most interesting. Through Cleo’s suffering, deeper, somewhat romantic feelings emerge towards Eve, who seems to embody her figure of support throughout. Although important that their relationship develops, I would have preferred for it to progress in circumstances other than when both in a state of emotional vulnerability. It is interesting that at the end of the play, when Cleo is in a more empowered state, she celebrates the fact that she has now met a man and that she is happy. While the connection between Eve and Cleo has a vital place in the text, it may have been useful for the story, if the dialogue between them gave deeper insight into the positioning of their emotions. Regardless, huge credit must be placed on the cast who brilliantly give life to some heavily-weighted tensions between the three characters.
Bullet Hole is on at the Park Theatre until 27 October https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/bullet-hole