There’s nothing Muna (Asha Hassan) likes more than chatting with her friends or sitting in front of Judge Rinder with a packet of chocolate Hobnobs. She’s a typical teenager. Iqra (Hermon Berhane) is quieter and more composed, her childish Hello Kitty bag somehow at odds with her mature demeanour.
It’s this focus on character that makes Charlene James’ Critics’ Circle award-winning play. What could have been a didactic piece about female genital mutilation (FGM) is rich and nuanced. Cuttin’ It charts the emerging friendship between Muna and Iqra. Despite their differences, they’re the same age, attend the same school and come from the same place in Somalia. They don’t, however, share the same view of FGM.
Hassan gives an outstanding performance as Muna. Her comic timing is excellent; every stress is perfectly placed to shock and amuse. The play’s tonal shifts are also handled well, with Hassan displaying great tenderness as Muna talks about her little sister.
If Muna’s ebullience is carried through her voice, facial expressions and gestures are perhaps the greatest indicators of Iqra’s inner workings. Berhane uses British Sign Language as she speaks to add emotional emphasis and humour. Creative captioning (by Teresa Garratty) also appears as the girls share personal reflections – like handwritten script in teenage diaries.
Cuttin’ It began life as a radio play, but director Nickie Miles-Wildin takes attention away from the verbal and focuses instead on depicting the girls’ personal response to events. Her production feels wonderfully inclusive and resonant.