Friday 28 April 2017

Consent, The National Theatre, South Bank, central London

A new contemporary drama, Consent is performed in the round in the National's Dorfman Theatre, ensuring most of the audience have an intimate and close-up view of proceedings. Written by Nina Raine, the play is cleverly-crafted, exploring the thorny issues of what constitutes consent and rape inside and outside marriage from multiple angles and viewpoints. The searing script effectively contrasts the rigid logic of the legal process with the emotional trauma caused by sexual abuse, highlighting the relativity of so-called justice.

Although the first section of the production is upbeat and occasionally comic, the atmosphere quickly becomes intense and brooding.  Some of the early humour is laugh-out-loud funny, but when the mood darkens, it really darkens.  Watching Consent will have you thinking and squirming in equal measures as it cuts cleanly to the heart of relationships between men and women. The scenes involving toe-curling and childish confrontations between couples in front of their friends are particularly convincing.  However, the play would be even better with more consistent acting. At times, the six main actors give very believable portrayals of middle class barristers, but sometimes they don't appear to trust the script and over-emphasise or under-emphasise their lines. Moreover, erratic timing in the delivery of lines can result in clumsy moments, while the conclusion feels rushed and unconvincing. But quibbles aside, Consent pulls off the difficult balancing act of putting infidelity, rape and relationships under an unflinching spotlight, while still being entertaining and enthralling. 8/10