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Global Focus

Powerful theatre reveals horrors of FGM closer to home

Audio 11:47
In the play, Cuttin'It, where characters Iqra (Marième Diouf) and Muna (Jessica Kennedy) meet for the first time
In the play, Cuttin'It, where characters Iqra (Marième Diouf) and Muna (Jessica Kennedy) meet for the first time Nicholas Subramaniam/Eltham Hill School

When UK playwright Charlene James wrote Cuttin' It in 2014, she meant it to be the starting point for conversations about Female Genital Mutilation. Although illegal in UK since 1985, FGM is still being practiced on young girls.

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Cuttin' It toured a number of secondary schools in London and Birmingham for a month earlier this year. The play won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright in 2015 and the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play in 2014. This time round, it was staged by the Young Court at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

Romana Flello, the Young Court manager, felt it was important to raise awareness about the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as well as violence against women and girls. Furthermore, FGM is on the curriculum on the schools' programme. Each school visit involved a pre-show workshop followed by a post-show Q&A with the pupils led by Flello.

Playwright Charlene James insists that FGM is not only practiced in Somalia even though the characters in her play are two Somali teenagers from Kismayo living in Britain.

"This is not just happening in Africa, Indonesia or those far away places that we can just off from. It's happening in this country, in cities like Birmingham, London, Glasgow," says James.

It was while watching a documentay by Leyla Hussein, the Cruel Cut that James first became aware of FGM. "This one [issue] just got to my gut really and I just felt like I needed to speak about it."

Cuttin' It is also about the multi-layared identities of children of immigrants. Something James is familiar as her parents came from Jamaica to settle in Birmingham.

"You are trying to assimilate into a country that your parents weren't part of. You want ot embrace your culture but you might not fit in. I think it was important to show how do you have those dual identities and how you are juggling that. There is that clash which I think is really interesting of how those two marry together and FGM is one of those things" explains James.

Follow the Royal Court Theatre on Twitter @royalcourt

Follow Romana Flello on Twitter @RomanaFlello

Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt

Extracts of the play, Cuttin' It, courtesy of the Young Court

Sound editor: Alain Bleu

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