Laws Of Consent Come Under The Microscope At Harold Pinter Theatre

Consent, Harold Pinter Theatre ★★★★☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 8 months ago

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Laws Of Consent Come Under The Microscope At Harold Pinter Theatre Consent, Harold Pinter Theatre 4
Photo: Johan Persson

Recently, Dr Germaine Greer told Hay Literary Festival that most rape cases were ‘just bad sex’ rather than serious crimes — so the timing couldn’t be better for the West End transfer of Nina Raine’s Consent. It's 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.

Publicity framed 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 – 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.

Photo: Johan Persson

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'.

Photo: Johan Persson

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. Raine does.

Consent, Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, W1. Tickets: £20-95, until 11 August 2018.

Last Updated 01 June 2018