Valiant

Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Freya Routledge

at 09:41 on 16th Aug 2015

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“War is spoken in a male voice” reads the text on a dark projection screen in C Nova’s Studio 2. This unsurprising admission sets the scene for Valiant, a gender-political verbatim performance that gives real women from around the world a chance to voice their struggle and survival through war. Based on the book Valiant Women in War and Exile by Sally Hayton-Keeva which documents her many interviews with women who have been affected by conflict, Lana Joffrey has extracted some of these accounts and adapted them for the stage, creating 13 monologues that are performed by her and 3 other women: Catherine Rees, Diana Bermundez and Eimear O’Riordan. The result is a series of moving accounts from women of many ages and nationalities who have all experienced modern global conflict.

The set accommodated a projector screen which, through live typing, conveyed extra information about the stories we were being told. Whilst this was a useful tool in informing viewers about the names and locations of each speaker, it sometimes seemed unnecessary. This was most evident in the live typing and deleting of ‘?????’ which might have symbolised the questions that the show intend to explore but actually generated more confusion than clarity.

The script was very well performed, managing to convey some of the horror that the women had witnessed. Stories included an American military air-hostess flying soldiers to Vietnam, a mother watching her children being processed in concentration camps and an American woman’s bid to holistically heal the Cambodian victims of oppressive communism in the ‘80s. The wide-ranging variety in these stories was fascinating and showcased the impressive versatility of the four actors. Indeed, with stories coming from widely varying global locations, all four women adeptly presented themselves as natives of that country. Eimear O’Riordian’s monologue as a Northern Irish woman caught in the conflict was a passionate portrayal of the devastation she had suffered and Lana Joffrey’s building intensity in her voice during her description of the plight of an Afghan woman was deeply moving.

Despite the emotional content of the script, the performance was rarely overly sentimental allowing the women’s stories to speak for themselves. However, whilst each of the 13 monologues helped build a holistic view of the enormous topic the production was attempting to cover, at 80 minutes it did go on for too long, becoming slightly tiresome towards the end. However, despite this small shortcoming, it was nonetheless a sensitively performed and powerful rendering of Joffrey’s script which accomplished its intention to provide a voice for the disenfranchised women of war.

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Genevieve Cox

at 11:14 on 16th Aug 2015

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Joffrey, Rees, Bermudez and O’Riodan all give poignant performances in Valiant. It is an excruciatingly emotive collage of thirteen individual experiences of war told through the passive perspective of wartime females who share their separate stories outside of the “male voice” of war. Based on Joffrey’s novel Valiant Women in War, phenomenal acting with in-depth characterisation, admirable versatility and adaptability of 13 roles by four actors gives power to the marginalised voice as females unite in chorus to demonstrate the legitimacy of their overlooked relevance to war and its struggles.

This amalgamation provides insight into the varying outlooks of different women from diverse nations, ages, roles, experiences, wars, and memories. All are brought together under the quintessential human spirit that defies enforced patriarchal passivity in the bid for freedom to transcend the self and live a life full of “love, joy, abundance and giving”.

Individual voices play a poignant and potent role in this production as audience focus moves through different perspectives on war – from personalised accounts of mothers and wives, daughters and lovers to distanced individuals to whom the war is merely an occupation, a “game”, a distant and unreal irrelevance that only slowly gains recognition. Each voice was captured in emotive detail, especially the initial characterisation of believable agony of Sara Fabri, a Hungarian holocaust victim, by Joffrey herself, who triggered a shiver down my spine; and also in O’Riodan’s on-stage tears that left traces upon her cheek as she encapsulated the ghostly presence of haunting memories of Georgina Gadar.

As well as incredibly remarkable demonstrations of acting talent, different techniques were used to recast the environment of war. The use of Powerpoint enabled visual presentation and enforced the basis of the play upon its original novel form; moreover pre-recorded, overlapping radio snippets of wartime announcements were primarily employed to ‘set-the-scene’. Yet it was an audio-focused performance structure that dominated. This lacked variation, despite differing accents and occasional uses of choral effect and changes in tempo and dynamic, which meant that it lost some of its poignancy. Although the emotive substance fuelled the performance, even this became sadly buried and lost in its over-dependence on audio-dominance, repetitive structure and unnecessarily prolonged length. This was a real pity, especially as a few more visual guides and slightly-shortened duration would have provided the ultimate polish.

Overall this performance successfully breached boundaries, experimented with evocative emotions, played with poignant memories and steered away from cliché war productions to present an innovative and truly moving collection of very individual perspectives, grouped under the rare role of the “valiant woman in war and exile”.

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