Monday, April 24, 2017

"Consent": A New Play About a Rape Case That Makes Audiences the Jury

The Theatre Times: In the airy sitting room of a nice house, a group of friends are catching up over a glass of wine. “So what have you been up to lately?” says one. “Me? Oh I’ve been raping pensioners,” replies another.

This is Consent, a white-hot new play by Nina Raine, which opened to critics at the National Theatre on Tuesday 4 April. Its subjects are not, as the above conversation might suggest, psychopathically hardened criminals, but barristers. Raine discovered their peculiarly offhand way of speaking over the course of a research lunch in an “unglamorous, threadbare” courthouse canteen.

6 comments:

Angel Zhou said...

Based on the name of the article, I was expecting a play that allows the audience to interact with the actors and alter the story as it goes. Even though I am slightly disappointed that it did not pan out to be this way, I think that the message of “Consent” is much stronger than one of a play that includes audience interaction would have been. Due to the recent CMU Overheard drama about the alleged rape victim and the poor way that CMU dealt with it, I have begun thinking a lot more about rape culture and how it is inherently difficult to even know if you have been raped or not. I can say this from a first-hand perspective due to my own interactions and constant questioning of one particular event which I feel now can be classified as assault. However, at the time, it did not feel that way because of how naïve I was. I believe that the message of “Consent” is similar to this – by challenging the definition of rape, this play opens up the fact that there is no deterministic way of classifying certain events as rape. I do hope to be able to see this play at some point to confirm this belief.

Kelly Simons said...

Well, this is disappointing. I should know by now to not believe headlines since they are only made to grab reader’s attention, or be click bait. When I saw this article I honestly thought the audience, together, would determine the outcome of a rape court case presented by the actors throughout the play. The audience would be presented facts like a real jury in court. After the audience jury had decided what their verdict was, one of two endings would happen, depending on either the rapist was found guilty or innocent. Instead, this play seems to veer completely away from the idea that this play has anything to do with the rapist or their victim, and instead has chosen to focus on the barristers. I do not really see why or how this is a more emotional or interesting story than the idea that I had, but I am not a playwright. So what do I know.

Sabrina Browne said...

This play had the potential to be a very powerful show. Rape and consent are two topics that have the ability to really touch audiences and show audience members different sides of situations they perhaps hadn’t thought of. Watching something so drastic unfold in a character’s life can entertain, captivate, and educate viewers. Nina Raine, however, decided that those things weren’t super important. Truthfully, after reading this article there are more than a few reasons I wouldn’t bother going to see the play. The article says explicitly that “This is not, however, a play with a message.” My immediate reaction is, if you don’t have a message to get across, why bother writing the play? What is the point? What are you trying to say? Every story that is told is told with some kind of intention. This play, however, apparently has no message to get across. What particularly bothered me was a different thing Raine said, “It would be misleading if people came to it expecting to see a series of metaphorical placards being waved in their face, saying rape is wrong,’ says Michell. ‘Of course we know that rape is wrong. It’s a much more complex account.’” I am not going to agree with every piece of art I see and read about and listen to, and I am fine with that. What bothers me is not that Raine has chosen not to focus on what I would focus on in this play (specifically rape and consent). What bothers me is how Raine has brushed the topic of rape aside because of course everyone knows rape is bad. It comes across to me as such a “we get it already move on rape is wrong” kind of attitude that leads me to think that maybe Raine should refocus some of her efforts. Rape is wrong, that’s why it needs to be discussed.

Julian Goldman said...

This seems like a really interesting concept for a play. I’ve never considered the idea of writing a play about rape from such a distinctly legal perspective. In fact, the legal aspect of rape isn’t that commonly touched upon in general. Based on this article, it seems like the play does a pretty good job of addressing a lot of complex issues, though I’d have to see it or read reviews to know for sure. I think the component of looking at how someone being in a profession where they constantly see the worst of human nature impacts them could be one of the most unique topics this play delves into. I also like that this play is attempting to show a non-dramatized more realistic version of what the legal system is like. I do hope a lot of people go see it, since I think we need more new plays inspiring complex and important discussion about current and serious issues.

Lauren Miller said...

First of all – no. Rape is literally always rape. There are not different kinds of rape and calling something as trivial as cheating rape makes it that much harder to be taken seriously when you actually pursue justice at the end of it all. Also, based on my personal experience, we, as a society, quite obviously don’t know that rape is wrong. Maybe this play will be appropriate in fifty years when this hopefully isn’t a problem anymore and the freshmen women can get through a whole day of orientation without being given a list of people in Purnell to avoid because they have assaulted people in the past or being told to just never talk to anyone in a specific fraternity. Something is obviously very wrong in our society and plays like this just make it worse because this playwright is comparing the most destructive and violating thing that can happen to you as a person as a subject that can be judged and reducing it to just a violation of trust. You get over someone cheating on you. You get over being a juror on a case in which you let a terrible human being go and continue about their life as if they did nothing wrong. You do not get over being raped. It has been five years and I still can’t grow my hair out because I cannot stand the thought of someone touching it again. I have never had a healthy relationship and I don’t touch people. Art like this isn’t “revolutionary” or even admirable. It’s a bastardization of people’s suffering and it only serves to harm those around us. Also- even if this play was actually about rape – it is not her story to tell. There are far too many poems and plays by women about the tragedy of rape and how they feel scared by society. You do not know what this is unless you have gone through it and you should not dare to pretend otherwise.

Sasha Schwartz said...

The idea of a play going through a rape trial with the audience having agency in getting to vote as a part of the jury is an intriguing idea for sure. In this day and age of rape culture and rape cases blowing up all over social media only for the perpetrator to walk free (or with a few measly months of jail time), it feels very apt and timely to stage a play like this. I wonder if the brusk and harsh language of the lawyers and defendants would be beneficial to giving a new light to a familiar story, or if it would just feel insensitive or overbearing. The one thing that worries me about this play is the quote from the playwright, “I wanted to write a play in which there were two very different rapes. To ask those questions: can there be different kinds of rape? Is rape always rape?”. I think that it’s dangerous to ask if rape is always legitimate or “real”, because that gives onlookers permission to be dismissive of others’ real lived experiences, or even making victims doubt the legitimacy of their own experiences.

CMU School of Drama