New play Bullet Hole tells the story of Cleo a young woman from London who has been living with Type 3 Female Genital Mutilation since she was 7. After being raped by her husband, she finds the strength to undergo reversal surgery. Cleo’s family oppose her decision and send her to stay with her Aunty Winnie and friend Eve in an attempt to force her to accept her “gift”

Ahead of its run at the Camden Fringe Festival, #TBB10 spoke to playwright Gloria Williams about her latest project…

1# Tell us about yourself?

I am British born, of Nigerian heritage. Both my parents are Nigerian and I was born in raised in London, Camden. I am also an actress who trained at Rose Bruford [and] I am playing one of the characters [in Bullet Hole].

2# How long have you been a playwright and how did you get into writing?

I have been writing since I left drama school in 2006. I started writing with Talawa Theatre’s young writers group and then later joined the Royal Court Theatre young writers group. In 2009 I wrote, starred and co-produced a one-woman show with my company Freedom Tongues. The play garnered widespread acclaim at international festivals, Samuel French Off Broadway, New York Amazing Play Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe and won an award for best overall production at the Lost One-Act Festival.

3# What inspired your new play Bullet Hole ?

I was working as a project support for the NHS and was invited to attend an antenatal conference about child health. Dr. Comfort Momoh MBE who specialises in this domain, was doing a talk and that is where I discovered female circumcision [was] happening to young girls based in the UK, the complications giving birth, the different types and other issues with it.

4# How did you go about researching such a sensitive topic?

I read a lot of factual information, documentaries, and novels so I could understand the practice and the mental trauma that women go through. I also spoke to a few victims of FGM who gave me an account of their experience

5# What kind of obstacles did you face when building the narrative for this play and how did you overcome them?

The obstacles I faced was deciding how to present a story that was not a documentary style. I wanted to explore a drama with plot and character, giving the protagonists something internal to fight for. I also wanted to address the internal conflicts the women have with their intimate partners and give that area of their lives a voice to play out on stage.

Photo Credit: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography

6# How do you avoid the stereotypes and clichés around cultures which practice FGM? Although it’s a problematic practice there is also a level of cultural / religious ignorance that requires patient education etc…

I gave the 3 characters different perspectives to perform. All being victims of FGM.  One character is very much an outspoken traditionalist and God fearing older woman. She uses her maturity and experience to influence and enforce younger women to embrace female circumcision. The second character is a nurturing caregiver who sits on the fence of FGM and the third character is a strong willed young woman who desperately wants to fix her body. The different perspectives give the audience an opportunity to feel different sides.

7# When looking for your cast what was most important – did you have anyone in mind when you were writing?

We were looking for actresses who could well portray three different mentalities, three different emotional statutes and be versatile in changing these throughout the play as the relationships on stage would develop and become complex.  I did not have anyone in mind as I wanted to be open to what different actresses could bring.

8# What do you hope people to get from this play?

An understanding of the cultural practice of FGM, empathy for the victims and to see the trauma of how they feel when trying to live a day to day life. I also would like to add awareness using the platform of theatre so that people who are unaware can start to have more open conversations about it and become more adept in understanding it as a national problem.

9# What’s next for you?

I am currently writing a screen play on the life of Sara Forbes Bonetta.

10# In getting this project from idea, to completed production who do you want to thank?

I would like to thank the director, Lara Genovese who has taken on a strong and empathetic leadership role in how the story will be presented truthfully. Sunday Surgery Scripts for helping me develop the play and the other 2 Actors, Brig Bennett and Josephine Samson, for having so much courage and vulnerability in making these characters truthful people we can care about. Also, my mother for encouraging me to write this story.

Bullet Hole runs at Camden Fringe Festival 2nd – 6th of August. Find out more and book tickets here.

Photo Credit: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography