NORTH EDINBURGH ARTS CENTRE
IN BINTOU, the Scottish-French theatre group Zele have created a flawed, edgy, and sometimes disturbingly powerful show, which deserves a wider audience after its short opening run last weekend. Set on the streets of a French city where both black and white kids pursue a culture of blank-eyed violence - fire-raising, knife-fighting and savouring the sheer joy of shooting people in the face - Koffi Kwahule's ground-breaking play, performed here in a version by leading Scottish writer John Clifford, tells the story of 13-year-old Bintou, a beautiful wild child from a North African family who has become a symbol of freedom, sexual self-assertion and unleashed aggression for a gang of worshipping teenage followers.
Back home, though, Bintou's family - led by her lustful hypocrite of an uncle - are plotting how to break her rebellious spirit; and they turn to the woman with the knife, the one who traditionally performs the genital mutilations that leave women physically and emotionally crippled for life.
There are plenty of minor problems in Celine Cateland's 90-minute production, including long pauses for unnecessary scene-changes, and a script that sometimes lurches into obscure poeticism. The show works hard, though, to include young people from the Muirhouse area, and to create vivid and enthralling theatrical images from the ferocious story it has to tell. And in exposing the horrific, life-smashing misogyny with which girls like Bintou have to contend, it goes a long way towards explaining the nihilistic rage it so disturbingly celebrates in its early scenes.