The poster is stamped with the statement that 137,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. But for the team behind the play Little Stitches, opening at a London theatre on Friday, it is the individual stories behind the statistic that really matter.

The four writers of the play, opening at Theatre503 in Battersea, spent months talking to those affected by FGM, as well as to campaigners, doctors and teachers. Each of them – Karis Halsall, Raul Quiros Molina, Bahar Brunton and Isley Lynn – used interviews and accounts to write a piece tackling the issue and, as the director Alex Crampton said, to give FGM a "living breathing presence that makes it hard to ignore".

The decision to take on the issue came from Melissa Dean, founder of BAREtruth theatre company, which is staging the play. She said theatre was a powerful vehicle that could break through the taboos and secrecy surrounding FGM and bring real-life stories to an audience who might otherwise be at some distance from the issue.

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