Soho Theatre, London
Just as soul-destroying in its own way as the experience of rape, is making public what one has undergone. Aside from reliving the ordeal in minute detail, one’s testimony is questioned by solicitors and the police. Factors such as dressing ‘provocatively’ are a big no-no, and a night of drinking is practically a licence for the defence counsel to undermine everything a woman says. Even if the events took place exactly as described, certain questions would be asked, if not thought. “Who would let themselves get so drunk? The woman’s practically asking for it…” Written by Abi Zakarian and directed by Hannah Hauer-King, Fabric looks at one woman’s experience of such an ordeal.
From the off, Leah (Nancy Sullivan) recites the sorts of disparaging words that have been used to describe her. More often than not, rapists are known to their victims and once their actions are exposed, sides are often taken with those who believe the ‘innocence’ of the accused and those who side with the victim.
In Leah’s tale, we’re shown how she and her husband, Ben Cavendish, met. Working for a tailor on Savile Row, Leah is chuffed that Ben – the handsome, affluent customer – is interested in her. Dating goes as well as can be and if Leah really likes Ben, her family have fallen head over heels for him. They don’t mince their words in telling her: “Don’t mess this up!” So we see from the very beginning who Leah’s ‘nearest and dearest’ are likely to support…
Traditionally, one’s wedding night sets the tone for one’s marriage, but in trying to be amenable to Ben’s wishes, the question of consent and the welfare of the other raises its head. If a husband can behave in such a ‘questionable fashion’ on this occasion, what else is he capable of? Thankfully for Leah, the rest of marriage life isn’t so ‘eventful’, but a night out with the girls ends up being ‘messier’ than planned and the events that transpire can be traced back to ‘happier times’…
Fabric is all the about the details – the weft and warp of decisions all add up to make the tapestry of Leah’s life. As a character, Leah is candid to a fault – neither prone to exaggeration, or taking liberties with facts. In short, a woman of integrity. Because Sullivan does such an excellent job of conveying Leah’s innermost thoughts and feelings, we really get to know and care for her. Which makes her circumstances all the more tragic.
In terms of the way Leah’s tale is told, at various junctures, echoes of the future manifest themselves, as the fallout of her ordeal takes a hold of her social circle, marriage and position at work. With ramifications like this to look forward to, small wonder that not every incident of sexual assault is reported…
© Michael Davis 2018
Fabric runs at Soho Theatre until 22nd September.
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