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A CurtainUp London Review

"I'm incredibly promiscuous. All these Sharons and Traceys keep coming out of the woodwork" — Edward
Stephen Campbell Moore as Edward (Photo: Johan Persson)
Consent has been majorly recast since its inception at the Dorfman at the National Theatre so it is difficult to compare it with the very well received original which starred Ben Chaplin, Anna Maxwell Martin, Pip Carter and Priyanga Burford. Into the roles of Edward, Kitty, Tim and Rachel come Stephen Campbell Moore, Claudie Blakley, Lee Ingleby and Sian Clifford.

The play focuses on four barristers, three of them men, who specialize in rape cases. The opening scene sees Jake (Adam James) with Edward and Rachel (Sian Clifford)'s new born baby. But the focus of their professional lives betrays a detached approach to contrast with the intensity of the feeling of their clients. They casually refer to the rape cases with throwaway lines and we realize their job is to present a dispassionate argument rather than to empathise with anyone.

When Jake's marriage starts to fall apart after Rachel discovers offending text messages with one of his interns, it is to Edward and Kitty he goes for support. Edward takes Jake's view and Kitty defends Rachel. Meanwhile Kitty has been trying to introduce single Tim to her friend an actress, Zara (Clare Foster).

Tim is acting as prosecution counsel in a case about the alleged rape of Gayle (Heather Craney) which sees Edward as defence counsel for the accused man. In a most revealing scene about how British justice works Gayle asks who is her barrister, who is acting for her, a point brought home when Edward tears her limb from limb on the witness stand. He is of course just doing his job . . . .

Everything becomes more personal in the second act, when Kitty, on a bizarre mission to punish Edward for an affair he had five years before, embarks on an affair with Tim which gets more serious, hurting both Edward and her friend Zara who has become Tim's girlfriend.

Stephen Campbell Moore's Edward completely loses it in an unbelievable meltdown performance with Jake and Rachel as he rails against Kitty and the prospect of losing his children and his house. When Kitty accuses him of marital rape, rape by someone you are married to, things become very complicated.

Scenes are divided by harpsichord music and differing light fittings according to the location. In Jake's house they sit on nursery chairs.

Nina Raine's script has much to laugh at in the middle of all this pain. Jake talks wistfully about, "Someone who lets you be who you are, " and Kitty replies, "That's your mother!" There is a scene full, of double entendre as the actress Zara looks for tips from Tim and Edward about how to play an upcoming role as a barrister. Both men use their real situations to snipe at each other while ostensibly pressing home adversarial pointers for Zara's audition.

The closing scene between Edward and Kitty is a naive acknowledgment of the hurt they have both suffered, but only those of little experience could see this as a happy ending.

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Consent by Nina Raine
Directed by Roger Michell
Starring: Claudie Blakley, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sian Clifford, Heather Craney, Clare Foster, Lee Ingleby, Adam James
Set Design: Hildegard Bechtler
Music: Kate Whitley
Sound Design: John Leonard and Sarah Weltman
Lighting Design: Rick Fisher
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7622 and 020 7452 3000
Booking to 11th August 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 30th May 2018 performance at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London SW1Y4DN (Tube: Leicester Square)
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