Oh dear. Well-meaning as it is, this improvised exploration of a serial rape victim’s real-life trauma is totally wrong-headed. Young ensemble Craft and artistic director Rocky Rodriguez Jr simply haven’t got the tools or the maturity to handle material of this nature.
An anonymous friend of the company has granted Rodriguez and his four actors permission to dramatise her story, using what the director describes as ‘a very specific practice that I have been developing’ rooted in ‘physical exhaustion and identity deconstruction techniques’.
In practice, that means watching half an hour of sweat-soaked stick fighting, during which, inexcusably, one audience member was fortunate that only his knuckles were rapped, before the company negotiate their way through a series of pre-determined scenes. Rodriguez calls the show from the sidelines of the bare stage, announcing blackouts and pausing the action to deliver notes. There’s just the slightest hint of cult leader going on.
That said, his actors’ performances are muscular and intense, even if what’s gained in presence is lost in precision, both of language and dramatic thrust.
Story structure is the biggest problem. Not only is the narrative hamstrung by predictability, but Rodriguez hollows out a genuine trauma into a trashy potboiler. There’s no attempt to humanise the landlord rapist beyond a stock ‘creepy old weirdo’ and the production refuses to consider either social context or potential solutions.
Either this is an exercise in theatre as therapy, in which case it doesn’t need a public audience, or else it ends up in danger of exploiting its subject. Whichever is the case, A Question of Consent is naïve beyond all measure.
By Matt Trueman