Nirbhaya

The theatrical equivalent of a cry of despair, a howl of rage and a call for revolution

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 09 August 2013

Some stories take years to make it to the stage; when it comes to making theatre inspired by real life, distance enables objectivity and a widescreen view of events. But objectivity isn't always a good thing. Sometimes it's the stories written in the heat of the moment that have the greatest impact. Sometimes the theatrical equivalent of a cry of despair, a howl of rage and a call for revolution is the only response that will do. Nirbhaya, writer and director Yael Farber's play about the gang rape and murder of Delhi paramedical student Jyoti Singh Pandey last December, is such a response.

Nirbhaya tells not just the story of the brutal attack on Singh Pandey—referred to as Nirbhaya, or 'fearless', by the media before her name was released—but also the personal stories of its cast members. These raw accounts of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, marital rape, gang rape and child stealing make for harrowing theatre, but there's no question that this is necessary and important work.

The violence is artfully portrayed for the most part. There's a choreographic quality to much of the action, supported by assured lighting and sound design. When it comes to the language used to describe these acts, however, Farber is unflinching. The message is clear: these are not comfortable issues but we must listen to them, discuss them, debate them, even if we don't want to. Silence is no longer an option. It's time to speak out.