Review: Heroine, at the Traverse Theatre

Writer, and performer, Mary Jane Wells, draws the audience into the searing true survival story of former U.S. Soldier, Danna Davis. Unquestionably potent, and sometimes bleak, Heroine still manages to remain a celebration of the human spirit.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

📍 Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
📅 30 January – 01 February 2020
🕖 8.00pm
🕖 Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
👥 Written and performed by Mary Jane Wells
📚 Based on a true story
💰 £15 (with concessions)

Sgt Davis, a decorated U.S. military veteran, is a survivor, not only of war in the Middle-East, but also of gang-rape by some of her supposed comrades in arms. As a lesbian, Danna’s right to justice is utterly compromised by the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Forced to work alongside her criminal abusers, she ultimately finds herself fighting by their side.

Heroine, is unsparing in its portrayal of this grievous wounding of one woman’s soul, exploring her search, sometimes desperate, for some kind of healing. Wells’ dramatic monologue brings Davis to the stage, warts and all; not explicitly a noble figure, but certainly an overwhelmingly sympathetic one.

Images courtesy of Greg Macvean

Through well-judged humour, and shadings of the better side to humanity, the opening scenes deftly avoid the potentially fatal heft of, entirely justifiable, foreboding. When the traumas arise, it is all the more shocking for the contrast. Some early passages do feature language tending to the florid: acting to confuse, rather than clarify the action. However, there’s real momentum and pace in the portrayal of the aftermath, and the portrayal of Dana’s sometimes hopeless, other times desperate, journey towards the paradoxical balm of forgiveness.

Heroine certainly doesn’t suggest any miracle cures; but it does offer hope.

In her performance, Mary Jane Wells, is both entirely invested, and completely believable. From accents, to movement, there’s nothing to break the illusion. This is a fine piece of acting.

The staging is simple, only five stools, and some simple, yet effective lighting and sound. I confess to being a little puzzled by the need for more than one stool. The message intended by Dana’s downlit passage between each at the opening, and close of the show certainly had impact, but left questions, rather than answers, at least in my mind.

Heroine throws a needed, and timely, light upon the pervasive blight of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Emotionally taxing, but ultimately hopeful, it deserves to be seen, and to have its message heard.

Heroine played at the Traverse Theatre from 30 January to 01 February 2020. More information can be found at:

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