Arts Review: Rites

Dir. Cora Bissett, Tron Theatre, 5th – 9th May 2015

Chances are, the average theatre goer doesn’t know all that much about Female Genital Mutilation. By the end of Rites, through verbatim performance taken from lawyers, activists, doctors, and those who have experienced FGM, the viewer leaves informed, and all without having been preached to.

Rites is Cora Bissett’s first foray into verbatim theatre and she shows that her passion for women, their safety, and their rights can be displayed through any medium. Not only that, but her sense of community and encouraging discourse throughout makes her not only a skilled artist but a powerful community leader.

Using verbatim performances saves us from an emotional cliche and from being lectured – there are more than two sides to every story and many are told here, with defences of FGM such as it being a rite of passage and something that just happens. You never feel swayed from it being a bad thing, but you do come to realise just why it hasn’t been left behind in modern ways of life.

The information comes thick and fast – apart from one running narrative, many of the people portrayed come and go throughout, adding new points to the multifaceted discussion. The main heart of the story is a young woman who only found out she went through FGM when sitting in a class that was specifically about it. On returning home, she asks her family questions, researches where FGM comes from, and tries to make sure it doesn’t happen within her family again.

The most stark thing is the reminder of how often the practice is happening currently. The details, the engagement, the activists, a lot of what you are shown is brand new information, which is staggering. Despite the scale of FGM across the UK and the laws that have been implemented to prevent it, the numbers are still shockingly high, and Rites aims to raise awareness without condemnation. Cultures and traditions must be engaged with, women must be respected, and everyone must spread education.

[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]

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