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Nirbhaya – Assembly – five stars

There's a moment in Nirbhaya, South African writer/director Yael
Farber's theatrical study of events leading up to and following the
gang rape of a young woman on a crowded bus in New Delhi in December
2012 when you realise just how powerful a work it is that you're
watching. The ensemble cast have already set a ritualistic tone with a
mixture of reportage and first person testimony from abused women who
stopped being silent after the horrific incident.

As becomes clear from one woman's story of how her husband set her on
fire, then beat her so badly that it ruined the surgery that followed,
these litanies of violence, abuse and rape at the hands of brothers,
fathers and husbands aren't culled from journalistic interviews. These
things actually happened to the women onstage, and, as they tell their
stories, by turns shocking and heartbreaking, they bare their scars
every day.

As damning and shaming an indictment of institutionalised misogyny on a
mass scale as this is, Yarber has also created a beautiful, if at times
emotionally draining work of art which can't fail to touch the lives of
all who see it. Nirbhaya means 'fearless one,' and the victims and
survivors who tell their story are certainly that in a heartbreaking
but utterly essential piece of work. What followed the December 2012
atrocity was Indian women's Spartacus moment. While it should never
have had to created, Nirbhaya has become that moment's manifesto.
Until August 26th

The Herald, August 13th 2013

ends

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