Consent

Theatre, Drama
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 (© Sarah Lee)
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Anna Maxwell Martin (Kitty) Finn West (baby)

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Anna Maxwell Martin (Kitty) Ben Chaplin(Edward), Heather Craney (Laura)

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Anna Maxwell Martin (Kitty)

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Anna Maxwell Martin (Kitty) Daisy Haggard (Zara)

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Adam James (Jake) Priyanga Burford (Rachel)

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© Sarah M Lee

Adam James(Jake), Finn West (baby)

 (© Sarah Lee)
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© Sarah Lee

Anna Maxwell Martin (Kitty) Ben Chaplin(Edward)

Anna Maxwell Martin stars in Nina Raine's brave new play about justice, empathy and consent

Nina Raine’s new play is so emotionally bruising that it feels almost glib to describe it as ‘a black comedy’. It is a domestic drama about empathy, justice and – of course – consent that wallops the shit out of you for two-and-a-half hours. It is a play about things we prefer not to talk about; it is like going ten rounds with the elephant in the room, and at the end both of you are crying. There are also some good jokes.

Ed (Ben Chaplin, fresh off our screens as a suave fantasist in ‘Apple Tree Yard’) is an almost fanatically rational (albeit wildly smug) lawyer, whose insistence on dissecting and debating every interaction outside the courtroom – as well as in – infuriates his wife Kitty (the always brilliant Anna Maxwell Martin).

Early on, the play’s name seems to allude to a rape trial, in which Ed has taken an opposing brief to his dull frenemy Tim (Pip Carter). The trial and the men’s treatment of the vulnerable alleged victim Gayle (Heather Craney) will come back to haunt them. But it is only a foreshadow of what is to come, when Ed and Kitty’s marriage disintegrates and the questions of consent fall much closer to home.

What Raine and director Roger Michell set up is an almighty clash between justice as a human conceit and empathy as a human reality. Raine shows us how cold and unfeeling British law is to alleged rape victims in its obsessive striving towards fairness (in a way that can seem incredibly unfair). But she also dares explore the converse idea, that consent does not exist as a stark, technical ‘yes’ or ‘no’, that humanity, empathy and circumstances can muddle it endlessly.

‘Consent’ is certainly not a piece of rape apologia – but it is not shy about getting stuck into one of the more painful moral debates of our time. Raine suggests that the rules we have drawn up to attempt to order our lives may be an inadequate articulation of human nature. Which stands to reason, but it can be painful to hear.

The play is hard to watch at times, but an exemplary cast keep the characters big, brash and colourful. Chaplin is great as a giant, wounded man-child, while Maxwell Martin is just superb as a fierce, brilliant woman wilting under the weight of her marriage and stay-at-home motherhood. It is also packed with withering one-liners, which stops us being totally alienated by the gloom. Though that said, much of the humour comes from the public-school banter of the men. These are universal themes, but Raine’s posh lawyers come from a very specific strata of society and, ironically for a play about empathy, it sometimes feels more like it’s about Them than Us.

Nonetheless, if it’s not problem-free it’s gutsy and supremely well performed. Playwrights should be talking about this stuff, and Raine doesn’t hold back.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

Event website: http://www.outofjoint.co.uk
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LiveReviews|6
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AME
Tastemaker

This is an absolute masterpiece that not only explores the different reactions to rape claims but also how those who are meant to help you, are in fact only interested in their own numbers game. Powerful performances from every single actor on stage and it was all made to be very easily accessible so that you feel like a fly on the wall. You've also got to love the Dorfman theatre at the National. Theatre in the round at it's best!

nicknickn
Tastemaker

The reviews for this show had been so good, but it was sold out. I know that NT have a few restricted view seats that they sell at 9.30 on the day. I got there at 9.20 and BINGO! I was in. The seat was £15 and I wouldn't have called it restricted view at all. Apparently some are less good, but I was only second in the queue and really the view was perfect.

The reviews are well deserved, the writing is dazzling. Nina Raine is a huge talent with a wonderful ear for dialogue. She tackles some really complex subjects and manages to make you aware of each different persons point of view and even see the validity in it. And.... she makes it funny! Nina Raine is a playwright we are going to hear a lot more of.

Of course, this writing would come to nought if the actors weren't able to deliver and here we have six main characters of talent and all on top of their form and knowing that they have great material to work with.

I loved this play, I know it is sold out, but it is truly worth going along in the morning to get day tickets.

AJCroasdale
tastemaker

'Consent' is an excellent and engaging play. The use of the court case as a framing device takes the notion of manipulating the feelings of a jury, then replays the process through manipulating the audience into feeling sympathy and then loathing for each of the characters in turn whilst they toy with one another's' emotions. Raine's writing is excellent in this respect as she is able to contrast the reductionist guilty/not guilty dualism of the courtroom, with the complexities of real life situations: in Consent, no one is innocent, but everyone deserves sympathy.


The dialogue is phenomenally well written, and the humour is sharp, relatable, and, occasionally, very dark. The performances of the cast of seven are solid, and you really do find yourself sympathising with, then hating different characters as the scenes progress.


I would definitely recommend Consent to you, even if the white, privileged, middle-class world isn't something you find you can relate to, as the play is an absolute masterclass in character development and the writing of dialogue.

Jonnyboy
tastemaker

The act of consent is an interesting debate. What constitutes rape? When is the line of consent crossed? Nina Raine's powerful yet wildly funny new play examines this in the NT's Dorfman Theatre. The intimate space places the audience as judge and jury, listening to a woman accuse a man of rape, but this is only used as the catalyst for showing how this directly effects the lives of the lawyers involved in the case.

At points, although superbly funny, the characters can come across very stereotypical with great waves of self indulgent 'woe is me' style whinging at how life isn't as picture perfect as they wanted, and the language can often revert to expletives for seemingly no other reason but a cheap gag.

Roger Michell directs a stellar cast, with Chaplin and Maxwell Martin odopting such great physical and verbal prowess, particularly in their fighting scenes, it was mesmerising and a sheer delight to watch.

The play brings up many issues which are open for debate and shows that no matter how much you know a person you may never really know what they are capable of.

Aaron B

For such a heavy theme, this was very light on its feet. Anna Maxwell Martin is extraordinary, ably supported by the ver reliable Ben Chaplin and Adam James. Engrossing and well written. Hard to say it was "enjoyable" but beautifully done none the less. Highly recommended if you like something a bit meatier with sincere and compassionate writing and superb acting. Along with Travesties and Hamlet, the best acted play I have seen this year.

Bruce M

Despite an absence from the theatre for a couple of years, Nina Raine's new play "Consent" cements her as one of our great playwrights. This is brilliantly woven with twists and turns that continue to keep you on tenterhooks.

We start with an objective, intellectual and dispassionate view of the subject matter, rape, by lawyers with whom we have little sympathy. However as the play progresses and views of the protagonists become subjective, based on unfolding events, the whole balance changes. The bunch of arrogant shits we first meet and have little empathy with, start to engage us with their frailty and emotional responses. Some of the dialogue is worthy of a Wimbledon final, so fast, furious and varied are the verbal gymnastics. There is a lot of absurdist humour to break tension and the play is masterfully anddelicately directed by the gentle hand of Roger Michell. The cast is predictably outstanding, with not a cigarette paper between their performances. This is a must-see and I think will be seen as a play of great significance and longevity. It's not just about the subject matter, it's about human relationships and how we all deal with their reality. Go see!