Nina Raine’s latest drama frames legal ethics and relationship issues to stunning effect.
An intelligent play that takes shape around a rape case, Consent premiered in spring 2017 for a sold-out season at the National Theatre.
Now having transferred to the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre, it’s continuing to surprise and engage audiences as well as provoke thought long after the lights go out.
What is Consent about?
Two thirtysomething friends, Ed and Tim, are on opposing sides of a rape trial and outmaneuvering each other seems to take precedence over the victim’s well-being.
Elements of this controversial legal case soon come into play at home. Ed and his wife Kitty have recently had a baby, while Tim is still seeking someone (perhaps, Kitty’s longtime friend Zara) to settle down with. Their close friends Rachel and Jake, who are also barristers, find themselves struggling with the aftermath of an affair.
In all of their lives questions not only about consent, but also of vengeance, empathy and forgiveness come to forefront – as do flaws in the criminal justice system.
Written by Nina Raine, Consent has been lauded by critics and was among the finalists for the 2017 – 2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a major award for women playwrights.
Who stars in Consent?
Consent stars a small group of talented actors led by Claudie Blakley as Kitty and Stephen Campbell Moore as Edward.
Blakley, who won the 1998 Ian Charleson Award for her work in The Seagull, has appeared on ITV’s Grantchester and in films like Gosford Park and Pride and Prejudice. Campbell Moore has cropped up on several BBC TV programmes including Peter Moffat’s The Last Post and Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time. He’s also been seen in the film Goodbye Christopher Robin as illustrator EH Shepard.
Adam James is reprising the role of philanderer Jake, which he originated at the National Theatre. James most recently appeared on the West End in Girl from the North Country. Plus, he’s been seen on television in Grantchester as well as in Home from Home, Doctor Foster and Endeavour.
Heather Craney, another original cast member from Consent’s National Theatre run, has returned as Gayle, bringing her powerful performance as a victim living with the trauma of sexual assault to the Harold Pinter Theatre.
Rounding things off are Sian Clifford as Rachel, Clare Foster as Zara and Lee Ingleby as Tim – along with a real live baby who makes an appearance as Baby Leo at the opening of the play.
Pictured above are Blakley, Campbell Moore and James in rehearsal, and you can view more photos of the whole cast by visiting here.
What can audiences expect?
Nothing is clear-cut in Consent and that’s what makes it so fascinating. There are no simple answers, no easy distinctions between right and wrong, and no obvious sides to take. But even though the play is packed with complex ideas – everything from the nature of marriage and the complications of children, to justice and the way victims are treated by the law – it never gets highbrow or melodramatic.
Thanks to Raine’s sharp writing and the impressive performances, Consent is riveting throughout, and at times it’s even funny.
Having worked extensively for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, director Roger Mitchell of Notting Hill fame wonderfully melds the drama’s tragic and comedic facets.
All the roles provide the cast with ample chances to shine. As Kitty, a non-barrister, Blakley starts out sweetly vulnerable, carving out her place as a sympathetic character…until other nuances come to light. Campbell Moore embodies her husband Edward brilliantly and experiences the widest range of emotions on stage. It’s mesmerising to see him start out cocky and so callously detached from the law he practices, and then end up a shell of his former self. As cheating egoist Jake, James garners some laughter with perfectly delivered one-liners in an impressive performance that’s often physically and emotionally charged.
Consent’s minimalist set is also a wonder. There’s an array of lighting fixtures visible above the stage. Different ones drop down for Ed and Kitty’s flat, Jake and Rachel’s children’s playroom, a courtroom office, a Starbucks and Tim’s haunted home. A black-lit wall also provides window-like effects showing off a blue sky or night moon as well as becoming transparent in areas to make things like a Christmas tree visible. Then from the bare floor, items of furniture – such as a baby’s cot, chairs, tables and sofas – pop up. This complicated simplicity perfectly complements the production because like everything (including just the orientation of a sofa), they are rich for interpretation.
That’s the thing about Consent, from every angle it gives you plenty to think and talk about long after you leave the theatre.
What are the critics saying?
“A modern classic… a hotly topical play with as much human life as we’ve seen on the West End stage for a long time.” ★★★★★ – The Times
“Essential viewing. This is a play you’ll be talking about for a long time to come.” ★★★★★ – Radio Times
“Riveting account of imploding metropolitan lives. This piece couldn’t be more timely” ★★★★ – Telegraph
“This bracingly clever, bleakly funny play offers no easy answers to any of its questions: what is justice, what is vengeance, and which is right?” ★★★★ – Guardian
“A vivid, thoughtful and immensely resonant play” ★★★★ – Financial Times
“Nina Raine’s brilliant… moral thriller… that’s won new relevance in the #MeToo era” – Time Out
What else do I need to know?
Consent is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End until 11 August 2018.
Tickets are available now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.