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Consent – the Director’s Preview

Director Andy Webb introduces Consent, a relatively recent play by Nina Raine with a rape case at the heart of the drama.

It doesn’t sound as though this is the easiest of subject matter – what attracted you to directing this play?

The scope of the play and its ambition to tackle big issues was certainly the attraction. Subject matter doesn’t come more difficult than rape, but the rape story line is one of a number of interweaving layers that makes the play so interesting. Infidelity, betrayal, revenge, justice and empathy are some of the others. For me all the characters are living in bad faith, acting out thoughtlessly their rather tawdry lives as lawyers, husbands, wives and lovers with variously unsettling consequences for their relationships. Only Gayle, the rape victim/survivor comes close to real insight.

Reviews describe Consent as “smart” and “clever” – how would you respond to those descriptors?

Dead right. Smart people say clever things in this play despite their general awfulness. And what the writer, Nina Raine, does so cleverly is to wash the seriousness of her subject matter with low, sometimes scatological, humour. Some scenes are pure comedy.

It’s a courtroom drama though, right?

Wrong. There is one early courtroom scene but this is not a whodunnit. There is an injustice at the heart of the drama, but in the course of the play characters wrestle with the idea of what actual justice looks like. Each has a sense of what is ‘fair’ as it affects them and they seek justice to achieve this when in fact what they want is revenge. As for the legal system, the accusation of the play is that it is no guarantor of justice at all.

Tell us about the cast of characters we’ll meet.

The play takes us into a world of arrogant, self-satisfied lawyers who by and large regard their profession as a game of winning and losing. Victims of crime are collateral in this endeavour of one-upmanship, and this is mostly how they view their private lives as well. For some of the characters this results in a great comeuppance, if not a great fall. The challenge that Nina Raines presents a director with is this: can I make these characters interesting enough, let alone likeable enough, for an audience to want to spend two hours in their company? That’s one for you to decide!

Consent runs Tuesday 28 January – Saturday 1 February at the Old Fire Station. Buy tickets here

Rehearsal images by Charlotte Benstead