The outside will have to wait

by Gabriella Sonabend

It is Friday 4th October 2013. I wake at around 10am and immediately go to set up my computer and my hard drive. I am involved in helping to build an online campaign for a very important cause and I am running out of time in which to work.

The cause is ‘Nirbhaya’ a play created by director and writer Yael Farber and producer and actress Poorna Jagannathan in response to the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2012 in New Delhi. This play was put together in the six weeks leading up the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Following the incident of the rape Jagannathan who had seen Farber’s previous testimonial works (particular one very powerful one about the apartheid in South Africa, Miss Julie) contacted Yael Ferber asking her to make a piece about the rape, to begin the process of breaking the silence of those who have been domestically and sexually abused in India and throughout the world. Poorna flew Yael and her daughter to Mumbai where together they created the play which became Nirbhaya. Assembling the cast through social media and auditioning them on Skype.

Each cast member has been a victim of sexual abuse. In Nirbhaya they each tell their own personal stories connecting them to the story of the rape of Jyoti which is re-enacted by the cast of 7 actors, 6 of them female. The play was brought to the Fringe by the Assembly Theatre and the reactions to it were incredible. After each performance the shocked and overwhelmed audience made their way over to talk the cast and tell them how brave they had been for speaking out. People told the cast their personal stories of rape and abuse, some people told stories about their friends and families and some even admitted to being perpetrators. The impact of the play was enormous and it was talked about in both the UK and India.

I saw Nirbhaya with my father and knowing that I would soon be going out to India I felt compelled to find some way of becoming involved in helping with the cause. We took Poorna’s contact details and started emailing each other, talking about what would happen next and how this work could be taken to India and shown in the most relevant places where it would have the potential to implement or at least spark the desire for real change.

As a result of these emails, I am currently building a Kickstarter campaign for Poorna and trying to help raise £100,000 for Nirbhaya to be brought to audiences around India; and for there to be discussions and workshops after the showings whilst at the same time ensuring the security of the actors during and after the run.

So today has been devoted to Nirbhaya, after a temporary panic this morning, when it seemed the residency was devoid of internet, I managed to convince Navneet of the urgency of getting a new router and I have been working on this campaign all day.

Varanasi horns sound endlessly as I type but I am so relieved to have had a good excuse to stay in and devote myself to work all day. I fear that I am not yet ready for the adventure that lies outside the confines of my safe studio hideaway. Perhaps once this fundraising project is launched, I will feel more willing to give myself to the mania of the place which I am in. For now however I am clinging onto my sanity with everything that I have… at least until tomorrow!