In Charlene James play Cuttin’ It hosted by Young Vic shares with us the seriousness of female genital mutilation and complications faced between this ancient practice and the reparations of this harmful matter through the experience of two 15-year-old Somalian school girls.
Cuttin’ It is a play that sets up a clear dichotomy of both tradition and change. The play shows two young Somalian school girls who build a friendship through music similarities and deep kept secrets, then drift apart when their differences occur.
The play displays the character Muna, a character who is constantly questioning traditional culture, showing this through wearing spunky clothes, listening to Rihanna, and most importantly not wanting her younger sister to experience FGM like she once did. While on the other hand there’s Iqra, who believes firmly that it’s her duty to continue on prior traditions. Iqra strongly tries to keep traditions and shows strong preserve of this through promising herself to never let go to the names of her loved ones, and to keep the tradition of FGM by performing it on other girls. Tradition and savouring the past is etched into her upbringing while feelings of change and indifference of cultural tradition are shown in the ways Muna.
Cuttin’ It starts with both Muna and Iqra casually sharing inner dialogue before heading off to school. Gradually these inner dialogue pieces grow with intensity, one of which carries Iqra back to a scene of struggle and devastating pain about the Somalin war she was once in. Her flashbacks remind her of her lost family. While on the other hand, Muna is shown anxiously thinking about the future of her sister while distracting herself to her MP3 player. When both protagonists finally meet Muna mentions the gentleness of Iqra, mentioning how Iqra’s voice reminded her of her own mother’s voice. Then later, Muna shares her MP3 player with Iqra and there is a moment of harmony between the two as they both share a common interest.
Cuttin’ It uses symbolism, such as an mp3 player to remind the audience of how similar both characters are and how they can easily agree with simple matters of the heart. That music represents the simplicity that bond one another, however when the play moves further along, we find that these moments cannot maintain the friendship and that holdings of the past and future are divided by their differences. Only temporarily can the mp3 player be used to hold them together, momentarily allowing struggles from the past to be lifted from one’s spirit.
The pain experienced by Muna toward the end of Cuttin’ It reminds the audience of the betrayal that was mentioned between mother and daughter, between the harsh reality of differences. Unfortunately, we know do not know exactly what happens after the play, but as an audience we have an idea. I thought Iqra would change her fixed thoughts on FGM especially when during an inner dialogue scene where when in argument with Muna she recognizes how ridiculous it was for her to not question the tradition. After having inner dialogue of her own FGM experience she reflected on it, she seemed mortified by it, yet she continued the tradition because for her she explained it was about being accepted in the community.
I thought that the show made real impact on the audience and carried a voice for the voiceless by presenting a realistically moving narrative of FGM. When tough issues are put into the form of everyday life, fiction becomes reality, and actors bring substance and meaning to a what is a real-life situation. Cuttin’ It was definitely not an easy one to watch, and it indeed made me tear-eyed, but it allowed the audience and I to acknowledge the horrors that are happening so close to us. At Tender, the support of these shows are crucial because they tackle difficult taboo issues, and through the art of theatre, violence can be addressed and exposed.
Written by Tender intern, Jess.