REVIEW - Cracking 'Consent' at The Crescent is explorative theatre personified - The Bromsgrove Standard

REVIEW - Cracking 'Consent' at The Crescent is explorative theatre personified

Bromsgrove Editorial 12th Jun, 2024 Updated: 12th Jun, 2024   0

I have been reviewing theatre for several years now, it’s mostly a pleasure to do a job where your hot desk is an auditorium seat and your office for the day is a Play House. Very, very occasionally like a detectorist finds his pot of gold, you see a show that simply exceeds all your expectations. That happened last night at the Crescent with their production of ‘Consent’.

It is of course a great play by one of our most talented and incisive modern playwrights Nina Raine, but that’s just one part of the triangle – the other two being a director and a cast daring to bring it to life the  often dangerous dialogue without compromise.

Andrew Cowie directed Davis Hare’s Pravda, a long time ago now but it remains my favourite of all Crescent shows, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he has taken no prisoners –  Raine’s golden words sparkle like diamonds in a crown of his creation.

The assembled cast is as good as any I have seen on a professional stag and I don’t mean that patronisingly I mean they really are individually awesome and spectacular when combined.

The setting is simple – a white raised dais which houses  six white chairs, stage right and left of the dais are three black chairs.  The acting space is on stage white for action and off stage dark for contemplation. When the actors enter the white space it’s gladiatorial. When they are watching from the black chairs its almost like they are ready to give thumbs up or down Caesar style to the action.

This approach by Cowie to the staging cleverly keeps the fourth wall between the audience and company in place. We are always observers and never forced to be participants and this keeps the action and ultra colourful dialogue an enjoyable spectacle.

The ‘Consent’ in the title is whether someone consents to having sex or not and if not then it becomes of course intentionally or non-intentionally the heinous crime of rape. Rape though is merely Riane’s tool to observe the breakdown of legal class friendships and relationships – exploring how the law muddies the waters rather than clean the pond.

Tim (spot on the money stuff from Mark Payne) and Edward (equally strong stuff from Scott Westwood) are barristers and chums – one defending and one prosecuting. In act one this concerns them sparring in the courtroom over the alleged rape of a woman called Gayle and in act two the sparring becomes personal over Edwards wife Kitty (a believable as well as watchable Grace Cheatle) leaving him for Tim.

The other legal protagonists are cocky barrister Jake (an often hilarious and  seedy outing from James David Knapp) and his  wife Rachel (sharp as a razor performance by Perdita Lawton) who are going  through their own personal traumas via extramarital activities.

A particularly clever scene is when Ed and Tim use actress Zara (an adroit Steph Urquhart) to interrogate each other over Kitty on the pretext of helping her prep for an audition.

Kate Merriman doubles up perfectly as the rape victim Gayle and as a marriage mediator Laura.

Every scene is like a boxing round where the bell goes ding and the actors come out fighting and when a punch lands and the ref calls a last man standing count. Rarely have I seen a better use of meaningful pauses. We have thinking time to both absorb and relish.

‘Consent’ was an evening spent joyously wallowing in the sticky stuff of privileged souls. Like Cowie’s Pravda it will be with me for a long time.

Consent runs at The Crescent Theatre’s Ron Barber Studio in Birmingham until Saturday, June 15.



Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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