REVIEW: Consent, Harold Pinter Theatre ✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Nina Raine’s play Consent which has transferred from the National Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Consent review Harold Pinter Theatre
Adam James as Jake in Consent. Photo: Johan Persson

Harold Pinter Theatre.
30 May 2018
3 Stars
Book Now

Timely and topical, Nina Raine’s latest play transfers from the National’s  Dorfman Theatre into the West End, pertinent and relevant to our times and the #MeToo movement. Yet, for all its topicality, the play focuses on middle class angst more than the facts raised- that the system is massively weighted against women who take men to court accusing them of  sexual assault. It’s a play that is well researched, and suffers for that, as the characters are so despicable and unlikeable that, in the main, empathy is kept effectively at bay.

Consent Harold Pinter Theatre
Clare Foster (Zara), Stephen Campbell-Moore (Edward), and Lee Ingleby (Tim) in Consent. Photo: Johan Persson

Kitty (Claudie Blakeley) and Edward, an excellent study of male privilege and arrogance by Stephen Campbell Moore, have just had their first child and their marriage is under strain. Their friends, Jake and Rachel, Adam James and the excellent Sian Clifford, experience their marriage imploding due to his infidelity, and they all try to fix up bachelor Tim, (Lee Ingleby), with their actress friend Zara, (Clare Foster), a caricature of middle class actress angst who, being in her thirties, of course, feels her biological clock ticking. Raine loves a dinner party, and the overlong first half has one too many, and what was intimate in the Dorfman is now lost in a bigger auditorium, the cast spend a lot of time looking at each other, acting into the circle. With the exception of Kitty and Zara, all the characters are barristers, and Edward and Tim are working on a rape trial on opposing sides. Their attitudes are patronising and dismissive towards the victims, and the play effectively shows how horrific it is for a woman to prove the issue of consent or non consent. An excellent performance by Heather Craney gives us a flavour of this heartbreak, even though  it’s disappointing that her character is the least developed. She isn’t in the play enough, but an effective scene where she crashes yet another dinner party and exposes the hypocrisy of the “old boy’s network” finally begins to raise the dramatic stakes just before the interval.

Consent by Nina Raine
Claudie Blakley as Kitty and Stephen Campbell-Moore as Edward in Consent. Photo: Johan Persson

When Tim and Kitty begin an affair, Ed begs her not to leave him, and he and Kitty  have sex when they are splitting up, she says non consensual, he says with consent. Friends take sides, and now the play becomes really interesting, the issue they treat factually is suddenly in the midst of the friendship group. Overlooking the obvious semiotics of the cast sitting on children’s plastic furniture as Ed has a childish meltdown, a gripping courtroom drama is promised. Yet Raine walks away from her central topic, Kitty drops the charges and the cards are shuffled once more and every couple is more or less where they should be again.  The play fizzles out and doesn’t tackle the central drama effectively.

Consent by Nina Raine at Harold Pinter Theatre
Adam James (Jake), Stephen Campbell-Moore (Edward), Cakudie Blakley (Kitty) and Sian Clifford (Rachel) in Consent. Photo: Johan Persson

A strong cast keep the audience involved, and Raine has some superb one liners and the dialogue crackles in places. I just found it hard to care much about any of them, and the victims are not given a strong enough voice.  Seen too much through a middle class filter,  Roger Michell’s production  remains  problematic, shying away from the biggest confrontation.


Share via
Send this to a friend