New play to explore issue of FGM in Scotland

RITES image web
RITES is showing at theatres in Scotland this May

New play, RITES, coming to Glasgow and Edinburgh this May, explores the issue of female genital mutilation in Scotland

Blog post by Nina Murray, Women’s Policy Development Officer
at Scottish Refugee Council

I have to admit when I first heard that a playwright wanted to meet for a chat about developing a play on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Scotland, I had my reservations. What kind of angle would it take? How could such a taboo and hidden form of violence against women be made into theatre? How would communities and audiences react?

When I found out that the playwright was Cora Bissett, my fears were somewhat allayed. Having seen Glasgow Girls (twice) when it came to the Citizens Theatre last year and read about Roadkill - which tackled head-on in a thought-provoking and impactful piece the similarly grisly and gendered issue of trafficking for sexual exploitation – I thought to myself, if anyone can write and direct a play about such a stigmatised form of violence against women and girls, it’s Cora.

When I met Cora and co-writer Yusra Warsama, I was soon talked out of any remaining reluctance about Scottish Refugee Council getting involved in the development of the piece. With her Mancunian humour and charm, and her insider knowledge of a community affected by FGM, Yusra soon had me convinced that she and Cora were the perfect double act to write a play that would thoughtfully expose some of the complexities of the issue of FGM and its impact on communities in Scotland.

Since that first meeting we have worked with Cora, Yusra and the team at National Theatre of Scotland to put them in touch with a number of people in Scotland from communities affected by FGM both to inform the script-writing process and to think carefully about the potential pitfalls around how to develop publicity materials, audiences and reach of a play about such a profound and emotive issue.

The development of RITES coincided fortuitously with our work with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to carry out a scoping study around FGM in Scotland, which was published in December. Read the report here. So we were able to draw on our research findings to help inform the development of the piece and support NTS to achieve their aim of reaching out to communities in Scotland potentially affected by FGM and engaging in the political debate on this and other issues of gender, belonging and the female body.

It’s a bold move by all involved to tackle such a sensitive issue and we’re really looking forward to May and the chance to see RITES performed in theatres in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester. We hope that the play will help open up dialogue within and between communities affected by FGM in Scotland, as well as keeping this important issue on the public and political agenda.

RITES will be showing at the the following theatres in Scotland:

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
05/05/2015 - 09/05/2015

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
26/05/2015 - 30/05/2015

Book tickets here

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