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'Consent' at the National Theatre: A Review

Youth Board member Kathryn Lincoln reviews the National Theatre's recent production of 'Consent' by Nina Raine

Tender are very grateful to the National Theatre for generously offering our Youth Board free tickets to attend a new play by Nina Raine, intriguingly titled Consent. Youth Board member Kathryn Lincoln shares her review:

On the 28th April we were kindly given 10 free tickets to the National theatre’s play Consent. As you can imagine, the play was based around consent to sex, and rape. It was incredibly performed by a very talented, witty – sometimes too much so when discussing a topic of this gravity – and sharp cast, with great direction from Roger Michell and writing by Nina Raine.

 

However, as members of Tender, where we work very closely on spreading clear messages about consent – no means no, rape is illegal (and very wrong), one cannot consent under the influence of drugs and alcohol – and we use drama to educate young people about these messages, this is what we were hoping Consent would do – use their incredible platform to spread these clear messages. They certainly used their platform to discuss a very important topic, and unexpectedly told it from the point of view of the law and lawyers. I found this an interesting perspective, and one that I hadn’t come across before. It sparked an interest in me to look at the laws around rape and consent, as one thing that struck me as appalling in the system is the victim in a rape case’s minimal rights to a lawyer: they have one appointed by the government, with whom they cannot discuss their experience, and have no say over who is representing them, whilst the rapist has many more rights. Therefore, I feel the play was very effective in making its audience think and question consent, and spark a debate. They offered different points of view using the characters, and it was done in a clever way that meant you learn something without feeling you were sitting in a lecture.

 

However, the story surrounded not only a rape case and the lawyers working on it – who were friends as well the defence and prosecution, another interesting point about the system – but also the couples and their relationships. (Spoiler alert ahead!) What was extremely frustrating in part of this story, was Kitty (played by the very talented Anna Maxwell Martin) was raped by her husband, and yet we as an audience are made to question whether she was raped, and whether it was her fault. In the final moment of the play she takes her husband back, in spite of his inability to accept that he raped her, to apologise for it or face any legal consequences. Unfortunately, this is absolutely a representation of life, and in no way do I condemn any survivor who returns to the partner who raped them, in a similar way that I would certainly not blame a survivor of domestic abuse for going back to their partner. Yet as a piece of theatre with an extremely large platform, I couldn’t understand why the production didn’t challenge this, and give her the strength to walk away. Theatres like the National need to use their platform to spread the right messages, and yet they left it so ambiguous that many could have gone on to be pleased they got back together, and believe that she was just exaggerating.

 

It’s certainly worth a watch, and I was impressed by the production in many ways, but from the Tender perspective we were all rather frustrated it didn’t push the boundaries further! We’ve still got a lot of work to do…

 

 

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