| By Shanine Salmon
Consent is ultimately a play about relationships. The relationships they have with their friends, their lovers and in the case of Ed (Stephen Campbell-Moore) and Tim (Lee Ingleby) their clients in a rape trial. Whilst the issue of Consent often appears it is often in the context of these relationships and what happens when consent breaks down or wrongly assumed to be given.
Claudie Blakely stars as new mum Kitty (prepare to get broody over the newborn making their stage debut) and wife of 10 years to Ed. The domestic bliss of a new home and new baby soon falls apart due to infidelity, mistrust and romantic dramas that wouldn’t feel out of place in a soap. Roger Michell’s directing in this works well, but at times felt like it should have been staged in the round as it can be quite a claustrophobic play and maybe the characters and stage need surrounding rather than observing. Hildegard Bechtler’s simple set works as the story moves between houses, coffee shops and courtrooms.
There is nothing wrong with being like a soap, strong storylines and strong performances but this play can often feel like I’ve missed an episode in the series. With all the law and sex, it felt more like a BBC drama than a stage play. The second half felt particularly rushed after the slow build up and introduction of characters and relationships.
The marketing also feels a bit misleading, this isn’t a tale of #metoo. There is a storyline involving a rape trial at which Heather Craney’s character is the victim. Her lack of understanding and preparation for the trial is meant to invoke sympathy from the audience but the writing was so melodramatic at times (at some point all the actors throw themselves around to convey emotion) that her performance left me unsympathetic, if this character is such a mess and so unreliable why did it go to trial?
Despite this I was riveted throughout; the performances work well despite the flaws in Nina Raine’s writing and the relationship drama is compelling despite inconsistencies with performances and characters. This may not be an all singing, all dancing night out but if you like plays that are thoughtful, thought-provoking and emotionally complex, Consent is for you.
Consent is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 11 August. You can book your tickets here.