Harold Pinter Theatre, London – until 11 August 2018
It’s been a bumper week for rape. Harvey Weinstein was indicted. Tommy Robinson was jailed for filming the accused in a grooming gang trial outside Leeds Crown Court. The world’s most durable feminist Dr Germaine Greer told Hay Literary Festival that most rape cases were ‘just bad sex’ rather than serious crimes, and in Connecticut a man got his cock out in court to prove it didn’t match his accuser’s description.
The timing couldn’t be better for the West End transfer, then, of Nina Raine’s Consent – a play in which matey lawyers play out friendly rivalry over a rape case in the first act, and courtroom moves to bedroom after the interval with an accusation of marital rape.
The publicity is all wrong, framing the production as though it were a contribution to the #MeToo conversation, but that’s sidelined in favour of zingy one-liners and snappy banter. With so many upper middle-class chats on minimalist sofas or in Camden kitchens, and so many posh lawyers hurting each other equally in the courtroom and the home – Consent is really replacement therapy for everyone suddenly missing Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan in BBC’s The Split whose last episode broadcast on press night.
Re-cast and slightly downcast from the National Theatre original, Stephen Campbell Moore still excels as the smugly entitled barrister Ed, and nobody does better upper middle-class twat than Adam James. The working class victim Gayle, played with proper raw anger by Heather Craney, is less well-served by Raine’s script, although it still makes the point that the legal system treats such people as mere witnesses to their own experience.
The set features a lot of lampshades. One of the props is a live baby. It’s all terribly clever and engineered to make audiences feel they’re ‘getting it’.
There’s a revelatory scene in which two blokey barristers explain to ‘an actress’ who is auditioning to play one on TV how simple are the rules of their game in which they structure questions and comments to fence in a witness and elicit the response their side needs.
The law is a toy. So’s the theatre, if you know how to play with it.
until 11 August