We hear the words, ‘never again’ many times and yet we still live in an age where war is constantly looming over us. Valiant, based on the book Valiant Women in War and Exile by Sally Hayton-Keeva gives war a new voice. The play opens by saying that war is something we often hear through the voice of men. Men who went to fight in wars and re-count and relive their experiences for the rest of their lives. Valiant focuses on the effects of war on women.
The play takes you on a journey around the world and through time with a powerful verbatim performance from the accounts of 13 women from all over the world, from El Salvador to Japan, whose lives were shaped and changed by wars. In her book, Hayton-Keeva recorded the accounts from 38 women and even though the audience only hear a portion, it is a haunting thought to be left with the knowledge of how timeless war has become since World War I; the war that was meant to end all wars.
This performance delivers brutal honesty and accurate details, and does not at any point shy away from hiding the painful experiences or memories. The small cast of four show a strong connection with the words they are performing. The actors may not have been the ones to experience the horrors and traumas of these conflicts, but they engage with the stories extremely well. They go from playing a young Jewish girl arriving in Auschwitz, a young Armenian lady forced from her home, to a frightened mother in the Philippines. Their impeccable accents, mannerisms and emotions will transport you to those scenes with them.
Over a decade ago, Hayton-Keeva started interviewing women from various countries for her book. Each story is so different yet each one shows the power and strength of these women, whether it’s being the youngest female sniper, a wife and mother who holds her family together during the Irish conflict, or an air stewardess exposed to the horrors of the Vietnam war. The play spans for more than 70 years of conflict and war worldwide.
The history books can only tell us so much about war and tragedy, but it’s the personal accounts that teach us about the suffering, struggles and fights for survival of those involved in war. Lanna Joffrey and the wonderful cast’s riveting performance reminds us that the real victims are the innocent civilians whose lives are turned upside down by war. As well as being a truly remarkable play, the themes are timeless. I would urge everyone to go see this show.
Valiant played the JW3 on 17th February 2016. For more information, see www.jw3.org.uk/event/valiant. Valiant will be playing at the Quarterhouse in Folkestone (Kent) on 12 March. For more information and tickets, see www.quarterhouse.co.uk/whats-on/valiant