Consent, 29/05/2018; a review.

TW: rape.

Last night I saw Nina Raine’s ‘blistering new play’ (New York Times), Consent’. The play, directed by Roger Michell, has opened at the Harold Pinter Theatre after a sold out season at the National.

'Consent, Nina Raine’s powerful, painful, funny play sifts the evidence from every side and puts justice herself in the dock.' 
(Source: National Theatre 'Consent')

Why is Justice blind? Is she impartial? Or is she blinkered? Friends take opposing briefs in a contentious legal case. The key witness is a woman whose life seems a world away from theirs. At home, their own lives begin to unravel as every version of the truth is challenged.
This ‘tense, entertaining modern-day tragi-comedy’ (Daily Telegraph) takes a searing look at the law whilst putting modern relationships into the dock.
(Source: From the Box Office

The cast of this production were exceptionally gifted in their ability to throw words around playfully when chatting amongst themselves, but then throw them at each other in moments of anger. Each couple connected well and then the individuals were strong when they stood alone. The audience seemed to particularly love Jake, played by Adam James, maybe because his character was the comic relief from the beginning but he soon became a key player in the madness and mess of lies that later surfaced. 

Personally, I was totally taken with the first character Heather Craney played; the victim in the rape case, not being listened to or properly told how the case would work, only meeting her barrister (not her lawyer) minutes before going into the courtroom. I immediately, sadly, knew she was unlikely to be taken seriously, let alone win the case. 

This play was extraordinary in that it could definitely not be called 'cheerful', but somehow had the audience giggling throughout, often at the most inappropriate times. I found the dark and often simple comedy completely fascinating. The subjects were very unpleasant, of course - rape, affairs, marital struggles, even domestic violence - but the writing was clever in that it managed to lace each horrendous occurrence and difficult discussion between actors with humour. And as an audience member, frequently finding myself switching from tense silence into spluttering laughter was brilliantly unusual. 

I thought the staging of this production was excellent, and the minimal sets were cleverly used while not being too 'busy', and never distracting the audience from the actors. The juxtaposition in some scenes was great, too - a few of the best and most intense interactions took place in a child's (presumably Jake and Rachel's) playroom, with the actors sitting on tiny plastic chairs or avoiding toys on the floor as they strode around the space. 

An interesting observation I made during the interval - queuing for the loo, then passing through the bar and returning to my seat – was everyone was talking about the play. It seems obvious, but really all the times I've been to the theatre in the past few years, it's very rare that the production is discussed so eagerly and at such length between acts. This play clearly stirred up some feelings and opinions in its viewers. 

And then I found when I travelled home (weaving through the West End stars gathering outside the theatre for photos and press attention) I was receiving messages from friends asking how the show was, all of them keen to get my opinion on whether or not it was worth seeing. I told them all they needed to see it – but to be prepared for some darkness. 

Fancy seeing this brilliant play?
Get your tickets now, at From the Box Office!


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