Consent at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Nina Raine boils together the judicial questioning of consensual sex, marriage crisis and emotional revenge into a new, intriguing play. Consent is both a drama and comedy, a show tinted with black humour and free from the responsibility of giving moral lessons to the audience, prompting them instead to think for themselves and take a walk in the shoes of others.
Having been married for ten years, Kitty (Claudie Blakley) and Edward (Stephen Campbell Moore) have just had a child. With Ed’s barrister mates – Tim (Lee Ingleby) and Jake (Adam James) – a discussion arises from time to time about a specific court case: the alleged rape of Gayle (Heather Craney), over which the opinions of the group are divided. Was the act consensual? Was the victim drunk, or mentally unstable? As the protagonists face moments of crisis, emotional retribution and jealousy become piercing weapons.
The court’s rules of reasoning dominate the debates, keeping the arguments strict and with the right rapid pace. The intention of creating a crescendo in the drama is visible, but a scattered sense of suspense runs throughout the play. The tension at the end of the first act is so tangible that the atmosphere could be cut with a knife. But the second half almost completely drops one of the three main storylines, leaving the theatre-goers perplexed with regards to the central narrative. The plot, indeed, seems to have different threads that touch and influence each other, but the continuous shifting of focus is not effective.
The insertion of actual brands and London boroughs make the script sound more familiar, locating it in the present. However, Raine’s creation of a play free from finger-pointing and banal moral standpoints on injustice is praiseworthy. The timing of this production, after its first run at the National Theatre, further enhances the thought-provoking arguments for and against the various intercourses between characters.
Director Roger Michell smoothly manages each contentious sequence with sleek scene changes accompanied by playful chamber music. James is formidable in his humorous role, cutting through the quarrels, and the cast perfectly conjure up the nerve-wracking social climate surrounding the issue of consent.
Photo: Johan Persson
Consent is at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 11th May until 11th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.