Assembly Hall (Venue 35), Edinburgh
2-27 August 2018
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes
A truly harrowing tale of survival is told in Heroine, a one-woman show from Scene Change Productions making its world premiere this Fringe.
Heroine is based on the real-life story of a US military sexual trauma survivor, who for the purpose of the play is called Danna Davis. The only female in her company of the US Army, Danna is here to tell her tragic story for the very first time.
After being kicked out of her family home because she was a lesbian, Danna decided to join the US Army. One night, after learning of her sexual orientation, three fellow serving soldiers brutally assault Danna. It is the midst of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and her assailants know that she will never be able to report their attack as it would end her career – she is attacked after a night out in a lesbian bar.
Her career in the army moves on, but then she finds herself on a dangerous combat mission where she has to rely on one of her vicious attackers to get her squad back to safety. Dressed in her army uniform, writer and performer Mary Jane Wells performs the entire show on her own, slipping in and out of different characters as the show progresses.
However, there’s been a change to the usual set up as, due to an injury she sustained at the start of the Fringe, Wells is now performing in an ankle boot and wheelchair. It’s hard to tell what the show is like without the wheelchair, but under Susan Worsfold’s direction it certainly doesn’t affect the performance as she moves around the stage with ease.
There’s no fancy staging for Heroine, just a simple black box theatre set up which has cleverly brought to life through George Tarbuck’s lightening that reflects the part of the story being told. The sound, designed by Matt Padden, can be a bit overwhelming at times as transports you right in the heart of the war zone where gun shots are fired loudly with no warming around the theatre.
Even the most harrowing parts of Danna’s life in the army are not told from the point of view of a victim – graphic and raw though they might be, they keep you gripped to the edge of your seat as you realise what is about to come. Wells brings a dark humour to her performance, she is someone searching for what it takes to become a survivor and move on from such life-changing events.
The fact that Heroine is a true story makes the show even more harrowing, a real triumph from start to finish.