‘Consent’ review

Theatre, Drama Harold Pinter Theatre , Soho Until Saturday August 11 2018
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
1/8
© Johan Persson Heather Craney (Gayle) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Edward)
 (© Johan Persson)
2/8
© Johan Persson Adam James (Jake) 
 (© Johan Persson)
3/8
© Johan Persson Adam James (Jake) 
 (© Johan Persson)
4/8
© Johan Persson Adam James (Jake), Stephen Campbell Moore (Edward), Claudie Blakley (Kitty) and Sian Clifford (Rachel)
 (© Johan Persson)
5/8
© Johan Persson Adam James (Jake), Stephen Campbell Moore (Edward), Lee Ingleby (Tim), Clare Foster (Zara), Claudie Blakley (Kitty)
 (© Johan Persson)
6/8
© Johan Persson Clare Foster (Zara), Stephen Campbell Moore (Edward) and Lee Ingleby (Tim) 
 (© Johan Persson)
7/8
© Johan Persson Lee Ingleby (Tim) and Heather Craney (Gayle)
 (© Johan Persson)
8/8
© Johan Persson Sian Clifford (Rachel) 

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Nina Raine‘s brilliant – if imperfect – moral thriller hits the West End

‘I’m doing a lot of raping,’ says a blasé male barrister who’s so wrapped up in his cases that he’s blurred identities with the men he represents. Nina Raine’s awe-inspiringly eloquent play, getting a West End run after opening at the National Theatre last year, explores the nuances of consent, empathy and a broken criminal justice system in a way that’s gained new relevance in the #MeToo era. Loosely, it follows a group of fantastically unpleasant upper-middle-class thirtysomethings as they navigate first a rape trial, then some grey areas that sit a little closer to home.

One of the many things that Raine’s play explores is how these barristers are intellectually, not emotionally, invested in the cases they fight. Edward (Stephen Campbell Moore) makes the emotional brutality of sexual assault invisible by letting off bravura squid ink clouds of rhetoric and technicalities. He’s up in court against his sweatier, more awkward friend Tim (Lee Ingleby). Their laddish arguments reveal the chummy injustices of a system where two establishment men decide the fate of Gayle (Heather Craney), a working-class woman who’s living with trauma after a sexual assault, and whose world they barely try to understand. But then Raine’s play also shows how little space the legal system offers for real empathy, how it equates ‘getting your story straight’ with ‘telling the truth’. This story in itself would be enough to fill a play, but it’s not really what ‘Consent’ is about. Raine’s play rapidly morphs into a drama about marriage, infidelity, and the gross cycles of gaslighting and self-pity that its three central couples fall into.

It’s sparkily written, emotionally bruising stuff. But it’s also painfully polite, in that sweary, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’-type way. Roger Michell’s production is endlessly staid, each fresh set-piece argument divided by the anodyne tinkle of piano music, while a John Lewis lighting department-style array of pendant lamps twinkles away from the ceiling above.

The question I was left with was: why tell these stories together? The dishevelled, tracksuit-wearing Gayle rolls up in the second act pretty much wholly to make these city shitbags feel guilty, the ghost at their Ottolenghi feast. The pain of her fruitless fight for justice mostly happens offstage, like something out of one of the Greek tragedies her lawyer’s friends so glibly reference.    

‘No grey areas’ has been one of the rallying cries of the post-Weinstein mood of examination into sexual harassment and gendered industry abuses of power. I don’t think anyone literally thinks there are no grey areas. But it’s also true that some of the people who are most invested in insisting these grey areas exist are also people who’ve got the most invested in not rocking the boat. By segueing from Gayle’s horrendous suffering to the nice, middle-class, ambiguous marital abuses of these lawyers, Raine’s play implicitly makes a statement about what kind of people horrible things happen to – about how guilt and blame can only really be apportioned when events reach tragic extremes.

‘Consent’ is so bold, so far-reaching that it’s a shame to see it ultimately subside into something so safe and so in thrall to the status quo, reinforced by an ending that locks its couples into the stasis of mutually assured destruction. Raine uses language to strangle her subjects, wrapping their own self-aggrandising flourishes and tangled excuses round their necks – but ultimately the same linguistic flourishes stifle the play, too.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

Venue name: Harold Pinter Theatre
Contact:
Address: 6
Panton Street
London
SW1Y 4DN
Opening hours: Check website for show times
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square
Price: £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
Static map showing venue location
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
    • Harold Pinter Theatre £15-£95. Runs 2hr 20min
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Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:5
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|9
2 people listening
tastemaker

Consent is an absolute master-piece. It doesn't beat around the bush and gets straight to the point with a sledge hammer. The cast could have not been better, but an absolute stand-outs were Adam James as Jake, a self-absorbed family friend who initially brings the moral question to the happily married couple, Edward and Kitty. My favourite part of the whole performance is when Edward (Stephen Campbell Moore) goes berserk. His performance is painfully convincing and captivating.

tastemaker

Not surprisingly, it seems everyone is taking different things from this multi-faceted play. It is indeed, full of infuriatingly cold analytical speeches by members of the well-off middle class who dispassionately defend the "common man".  It also displays in an extreme way, what effect this attitude can have on those unfortunates who suffer at the hands of these unsympathetic practitioners of law. And at the end, the inevitable moral of the tale.  One day, the time of reckoning will come even to those who think themselves immune.  It's called "learning the hard way".  Thank goodness.  Superb performances.

tastemaker

This is messy, honest look at rape claims and the different sides to every story. Edward and Kitty start out as a seemingly normal couple with a young baby, but as the play goes on their relationship unravels to reveal dark truths and blurred lines around consent. All the actors did this piece justice, I did feel it was a bit long and could have got the point across in fewer scenes. 

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!

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.

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.

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.


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.


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!