My viewing of the theatre piece, Nirbhaya, was in a rather timely manner. The last few weeks have been saturated with debate about the documentary India’s Daughter – a documentary which covers the same event that is the focal point of Nirbhaya. That event being the gangrape and murder of 23 year old doctor-in-training Jyoti Singh.
Whilst India’s Daughter has spurned a wave of debate on a spectrum of issues, from sexual violence in India, to capital punishment, to those defending Delhi against its new label of ‘rape capital of the world’, Nirbhaya remains focused on one issue alone: breaking the silence.
Nirbhaya, a word that was attributed to Jyoti Singh under circumstances when she could not be named as the victim of the crime, means ‘fearless.’ This theatre piece, and the cast within it are beyond deserving of that title. Nirbhaya sets out to tell the story of Jyoti Singh, and how the events of 16th December became a catalyst and a source of strength for women across India. Suddenly, silence was an option no more.
The piece explores four true backstories of the cast in the play. Each of them highlights the ubiquitous and rampant gender violence and injustice sweeping India, ranging from those who were abused as children to those as adults, and those for whom it was by close family to those for whom it was by a complete stranger. It was perhaps halfway through that it clicked with me that the stories being told weren’t just true stories, but were attributed to the cast members portraying the story too – a realisation that hit incredibly hard.
In a Q&A following the show, one cast member explained her feeling of regret in keeping her story locked up for so long, highlighting that Jyoti Singh may still be alive had gender violence been an issue that was challenged sooner. With all that is going on in India at the moment, and the global focus on India’s culture in the wake of India’s Daughter, this piece is harrowing but absolutely essential. Nirbhaya, indeed.
View the website for more on Nirbhaya and for upcoming shows.