Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Critics, Audiences hail "Powerful" new Fringe play on Delhi Gang Rape Victim

More than seven months after her death, "Nirbhaya" the young girl who died after being brutally raped on a bus in New Delhi, is in the news again.

"Nirbhaya" - the name given 23-year-old physiotherapy intern Jyoti Singh Pandey by the Indian media as she struggled for nearly two weeks to overcome the appalling brutality inflicted on her body by six men - has now become the focus of a new play that has gripped audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The play is the brainchild of Yael Farber, a South African playwright and director, who felt personally violated by the story of how a young girl, out with a male friend, was tricked into an empty bus where her friend was beaten to a pulp and she was repeatedly raped in a depraved attack which culminated in one of the attackers inserting a metal rod into the girl and pulling it out with such force that doctors said only five percent of her intestines remained inside.

Not unlike the tens of thousands of people who took to the streets in protest and the countless millions who expressed their anger over Social Networks around the world, Farber too had to say something.

"This could have been my sister, my mother, my daughter, myself...", she posted on her Facebook page.

Farber's message was spotted by Indo-American "Delhi Belly"-star Poorna Jagganathan.

Days later the two - Jagannathan had known of Farber's work in "Testimonial Theatre", plays in which the performers re-enact their own personal experiences - were communicating and by February Jagannathan had flown Farber out to Mumbai for rehearsals.

The result is "Nirbhaya", a highly-charged play that uses the horrific events in Delhi as the framework to tell the true stories of five of the seven performers, speaking in public for the first time about their experiences.

One of them is, for instance, a former "Dowry Bride" who had managed to avoid death at the hands of her husband and family whilst another was abused by an Air Force man when she was just nine years old.

Following a limited run at the Riverside Studios in West London, the piece opened at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and stunned critics and audiences alike have heaped praise on the bravery of the women involved, including Farbin and Jagannathan.

Laura Barnett in The Daily Telegraph described the play as "one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I've ever seen".

Andrew Dickson, writing in The Guardian, said: "What makes Nirbhaya exceptional, and at times almost unbearable to watch, is that only two of the seven cast members (Japjit Kaur, who plays Jyoti Singh Pandey, and Ankur Vikal, who plays one of the male attackers) are acting in any straightforward sense. The five other female performers, among them Jagannathan, enact scenes from their own lives – testimony that's written with painful obviousness."

The Independent's review perhaps encapsulates the creators' vision: "Powerful and incredibly moving, Nirhbaya prises open the crack that the real life event caused, in getting women to speak out about their own experiences of abuse.

The women here offer up their own real testimonials of the horrors they've suffered at the hands of men, in a harrowing, but not alienating performance."

"Nirbhaya" is at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh until August 26.



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