Baretruth Theatre Company: FGM can be eradicated through theatre performances in Hackney, Battersea and Notting Hill

Isley Lynn, who wrote Sleight Of Hand - one of four plays in Baretruth's Little Stitches production.

Isley Lynn, who wrote Sleight Of Hand - one of four plays in Baretruth's Little Stitches production. - Credit: Archant

“I did a little bit of research and I decided it was too important for me to pass up,” says playwright Isley Lynn, recalling the time she was approached to produce a play about female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sleight of Hand, set to be performed across three London theatres including the Arcola Tent, will be one of four plays collectively called Little Stitches, which are being staged by Baretruth Theatre Company.

Although not the first play on FGM, it is one of the larger productions about the crime. More than 66,000 women are estimated to have been victims of the practice in the UK since it was made illegal in 1985.

It has been notoriously difficult for authorities to eradicate; no one has ever been found guilty of conducting the practice in this country.

Lynn hopes presenting the problem, which is usually motivated by culture more than religion, through theatre will help to raise awareness among the general public.


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“Growing up, I knew FGM happened but I did not realise how big an issue or how common it was,” recalls the 26-year-old, who lives in Finsbury Park.

‘Communities’

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“It was one those things you are aware of – like honour killings or cholesterol –but you think it may not affect you or even be happening near you.”

Sleight of Hand focuses on how we may have had contact with someone living with the consequences of FGM, but may have not realised it. The plays address aspects of the practice.

Dancing Feet, by Bahar Brunton, centres on a girl’s journey into womanhood; Where Do I Start?, by Raul Quiros Molina, features testimonies from victims; Mutant, by Karis E Halsall, tells of a 14-year-old’s summer betrayal by her family.

Some would argue that the very real issue of FGM should not be played out on stage, but Lynns adds: “The arts are important for addressing social change; you cannot change communities if you can’t change hearts and minds.

“Theatre is a safe place to challenge yourself because you are in the dark in the audience with no else.”

Melissa Dean, artistic director of Baretruth, who selected each of the four writers believes that FGM should not just be debated by politicians.

“There is only so many times FGM can be talked about,” she says. “I have attended certain talks, but they only reach so many people. Stage is a good way for people to open up to the issue. Many teachers do not know how to talk about FGM with their pupils, but people can talk about the plays and how they make them feel.”

Pieces from Little Stitches will be read out in six different libraries across London, once the tour ends. It is hoped the move will ensure that the play’s message reaches as many parts of society – not just theatregoers.

Lynn says Baretruth are in talks with schools about bringing Little Stitches to the classroom. “It is important as it affects school children because a lot of young girls get taken out of their communities during the long summer holidays.”

n Little Stitches is at Theatre 503 in Battersea from August 21-27; Arcola Tent, Ashwin Street, Hackney, from August 29-30; and the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill. To book for the Arcola Tent shows call 020 7503 1646. Tickets £10-£12.

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