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BIRANGONA WOMEN OF WAR – Lost Theatre, London.

birangona-lowres-5[1]A stirring testament to the survival of inhumane action is on offer in this ambitious production at the Lost Theatre. Inexplicably, it’s a true tale that’s been little heard.

It was 1971 when the war for the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan broke out.  When the dust settled and the jubilance of success reigned, the dark depravities that had played out in the heat of battle were more or less buried; whilst the scars suffered by the surviving victims lived on.

During the course of the struggle, the Pakistan military engaged in a tactic that would involve the systematic rape and torture of Bangladeshi women. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 innocents suffered this evil fate. A heart breaking detail notes that for women in this society rape is a mark of shame that falls unflatteringly against the victim’s name. They become ignored and ostracised from their society. They are forgotten about whilst they mire in subjective dishonour. It is a seemingly bewildering contradiction to the philosophy of morality to European audiences. As a result, this cultural difference sends further shivers tingling down the spine.

In Birangona Women of War (Birangona translates as “Brave Woman”), the audience is treated to a rumination on this period through a combination of film, animation and physical performance. It is a chilling and bristling attempt at translating the unbearable pain endured. Most effectively, footage is projected of the victims speaking of their experiences. It is truly horrifying.

The play clocks in at a trim 55 minutes, yet despite commendable application of shadow, light and a plethora of tools from the theatrical toolbox, there is a nagging sense that the jolts and shifts are engaging but in an almost distracting way. Disappointingly, this dilutes the coherence somewhat.

Nevertheless, any damning or strong words of criticism are nigh-on impossible to levy. Birangona Women of War deals with a noble and important subject and handles it in a way that demands attention.

This is the horror of history brought square up to the audience’s face. How dare we forget the cruelty that these women suffered? We should care. At the very least, we should know.

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Reviewed 09/04/14

By Greg Wetherall

9th – 20th April 2014
Lost Theatre, London, SW8.

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