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Nastazja Domaradzka

Review: CONSENT at The National Theatre

Consent - National Theatre Nina Raina’s new play CONSENT is a strong addition to the recent outbreak of feminist work that does not compromise when it comes to talking about difficult subjects such as rape, sexual consent and male abuse of power. Directed by Roger Michell, CONSENT is a powerful piece of contemporary theatre that not only explores these harrowing themes but also examines the flaws of the legal justice system and delves into the politics of sexual relationships.

Kitty (Anna Maxwell Martin) and her barrister husband Ed (Ben Chaplin) just had their first baby. At first their relationship and their new house, in the up and coming Lewisham, seems like a middle class dream. As the play unfolds we quickly begin to notice a distance and a sense of detachment between the two characters, and when Ben cruelly and emotionlessly questions a rape victim, Gayle (Heather Craney) at court, an almost disturbing ambience overtakes the piece, signifying flaws in the system and its impact on those who are a part of it.

A sharp and breath-taking piece of theatre

Director Roger Michell navigates Raina’s writing with precision and concentrates on creating the “truth of the moment theatre”. By following through with a distinctive rhythm and allowing his actors the freedom that only the most naturalistic performers are capable of creating, Michell constructs a sharp and breath-taking piece of theatre that keeps audience members constantly alert and engaged.

Raina’s writing is a gift for actors and the entire cast of CONSENT is a gift to any writer and director. Anna Maxwell Martin is mesmerising as the multi-layered and revenge seeking Kitty, whilst Ben Chaplin’s stage presence and repressed vulnerability make us question our judgements and preconceived ideas about misogyny and its origins.

Daisy Haggart as Kitty’s friend Zara, an actress who is determined and pressured by her biological clock to conceive, is a great contrast to the two protagonists of the play. Some of the best lines in the piece are delivered by Haggart as Zara’s observations on Greek heroines make a strong statement in the current political atmosphere.

Although not without its flaws CONSENT is an urgent and compelling piece of theatre that adds to the ongoing conversation about sexual consent and misogyny, without feeling educational or patronising.

Whilst Raina’s concepts and ideas can feel transparent at times and Michell’s directorial choices could be a more daring and bold, CONSENT is a complex and an emotionally shattering production that is not to be missed.