Heroine @ Assembly Hall

An important and timely play addressing sexual assault in the military

Review by Deborah Klayman | 14 Aug 2018

Inspired by true events, Heroine is a heart-wrenching, gut-punching account of Danna Davis’ treatment during her ten years in the US military, and her subsequent journey of recovery. Written and performed by Mary Jane Wells, who spent a number of years researching the project and working directly with Danna, this striking solo show gives a voice to countless survivors unable to speak for themselves.

Centring on the issue of Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Wells’ Danna is frank and unapologetic about the trauma she has been through, yet tormented by guilt and thoughts of suicide. As a gay soldier during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, and a woman to boot, Danna is subjected to a horrific rape by men she then must fight with side by side. With the threat of being outed, and therefore dismissed from service, these men ensure her silence as she attempts to bury what has happened to her.  

Directed by Susan Worsfold, the staging is sparing, giving room for the story to breathe in the space. At times the voiceover sections seem slightly out of sync with Wells’ performance, but they added welcome depth to the storytelling. Wells text is elegant yet explosive, achieving a conversational tone as she weaves the assault and its aftermath into Danna’s everyday life.

Poised and powerful, Danna seems unshakeable, making the unveiling of her story even more achingly impactful. A confident, capable soldier who is going places, in one fell swoop she is reduced to no more than her gender by men who feel she needs “taking down a peg or two”. A harrowing tale, but with hope on the horizon, Heroine is an important and timely play that has a bright future ahead of it.

Heroine, Assembly Hall (Rainy Hall), 2-27 Aug (not 8, 21), 12pm, £9-£12

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