theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 08 Aug 2015

Based on Sally Hayton-Keeva's verbatim interviews Valiant Women in War and Exile, HanDan Productions' impassioned theatrical adaptation (already nominated for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award) has history on its side. The four-strong cast enact 13 powerful interviews with women whose experience with conflict spans the 20th century, and whose ability to endure defies the limits of any fiction.

Aside from its unquestionable historical veracity, the power of the play comes from its emotional truth, and the way this is articulated. Its recollection of events always resonates with an impression of the lives they have tragically shaped. As personalities are illuminated through their recollective monologues, sharp, colourful contrasts are wrought: A Salvadoran guerilla fighter tells of her conversion to violence with an anger that forever teeters on the edge of despair. An Afghan teacher finds hope and catharsis in poetry, and her nation's history of rising against invaders. A victim of Hiroshima tells her story with a quiet, sad, impossible dignity, because it's all she has left.

The cast handle material of incredible difficulty with both skill and respect; though the range of accents required is occasionally a little beyond them, the strength of their performance and the power of the material largely renders it moot. 

In the play's opening, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide describes the confidence Hitler gained from the fact her people's near-eradication had been forgotten. Valiant is a defiant, horrifying and beautiful attempt to make us remember.