>>> Review: Nirbhaya
NIRBHAYA by Yael Farber (Nightwood/Assembly/Riverside Studios, Poorna Jagannathan). At the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Runs to November.
NIRBHAYA by Yael Farber (Nightwood/Assembly/Riverside Studios, Poorna Jagannathan). At the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). Runs to November 29, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $20-$45. 416-973-4000, nightwoodtheatre.net. Rating: NNNNN
Ive never sat in an audience thats been as quiet, as involved, as the one I was part of watching Yael Farbers Nirbhaya.
Inspired by the 2012 gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey on a Delhi bus, the play tells her story and those of five cast members who were violently sexually abused in similar incidents, initially unable to report the horrors theyd endured. The shows title comes from the name given to Pandey by the press when they were legally barred from naming her it means fearless in Hindi.
The womens tales of rape, beatings, verbal threats and shaming by relatives, servants, strangers, of losing their children, of being doused with kerosene and set ablaze are chilling on their own. They are transformed into stunning theatre by writer/director Farbers staging and a multilingual text that alternates between the hauntingly poetic and the brutally plain.
The cast of seven Priyanka Bose, Poorna Jagannathan, Sneha Jawale, Rukhsar Kabir, Japjit Kaur, Torontos Pamela Mala Sinha and Ankur Vikal, the one man in the company, who plays characters both supportive and villainous brings these narratives to memorable life, complemented by the design of Paul Lim, Oroon Das, Abhijeet Tambe and Anthony Doran.
These are real stories of the dispossessed, featuring the brave women themselves. Simply recounting their histories is, as they variously phrase it, breaking the secretive silence, shattering the bonds of the past, shedding light on the darkness.
And though you might think this would be an impossible show to it through, its not. At some level, in some way, the speakers have started to come out the other side, in part through having discovered their anger and refusing to remain silent any longer.
A hand raised defiantly, thumb and first two fingers extended, is the symbol of this reclaimed voice and, with it, awesome power.