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LONDON — A stage production reenacting scenes from the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a Delhi bus will hit the boards at the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe festival after a preview run in the British capital.
Acclaimed South Africa-born writer and director Yael Farber has penned Nirbhaya, a play which focuses on the attack on a bus in December 2012, after which the victim was left for dead on the side of the road before succumbing to her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
The horrific incident created global headlines and public outrage over violence against women in India.
Those accused of the attack face the death penalty if found guilty.
The stage play will preview at London’s Riverside Studios, one of the British capital’s premier venues for cutting-edge theater, before preparing for its run in the Scottish capital at the world famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
Waterside Studios has barred any media from the show’s weeklong run in its theater because it is a “preview/first-run only” series of performances to help it prepare for the “world premiere season” in Edinburgh.
“For these reasons, no media will be admitted into the performances for review/preview purposes,” Waterside Studios said in a statement.
Much like Farber’s previous award-winning testimonial creations (Amajuba, Woman in Waiting, He Left Quietly), Nirbhaya aims to bear witness “to the extraordinary capacity of the human spirit for survival, redemption and change.”
Bollywood and Indian TV stars Rukhsar Kabir, Priyanka Bose and Poorna Jagannathan, who first approached Farber with the idea of a theatrical response to the rape and murder, are involved in the production.
Nirbhaya, which means fearless, was developed through a series of workshops held in Mumbai.
Speaking to The Times of London, Jagannathan said, “If you are a woman living in India, you have experienced either sexual violence or sexual violation.”
Jagannathan said when she was young, she would be groped by men over the entire length of a bus ride until she could get off.
Nirbhaya, which means “fearless,” uses the Delhi bus rape as a catalyst for a “realm of personal testimonies culled from the performers” who have been victims of sexual violence themselves. Farber told the BBC, “It is challenging to neither sensationalize nor sanitize,” describing the violence as “grotesque.”
Said Farber: “To be explicit can feed a dark focus on the violence itself. Sexuality in mass culture is disturbingly eroticized. This is a deeply misunderstood difference between sex and rape.”
The play will open at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh Aug. 1.
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