By Adam Woods
Assistant Directing Consensual has been my first experience of a play with NST Youth Theatre where I haven’t been involved as an actor, so it initially took a bit of getting used to! But having a more general overview of the creative process gave me great understanding of how a production builds as a whole; and helping Consensual come together has been a real delight.
In the early stages of rehearsal it felt necessary to take the time to honestly discuss the brazen themes of the play – sexual consent, maturity, honesty, betrayal – with the cast, and to see how the questions it raises relate to them as individuals. It became clear that these are issues which affect everyone at one time or another, regardless of gender or sexuality. Sex, in all its forms, is a topic which everyone relates to in some way, but which everyone also cares about as well. The strength of this play comes from the way in which it frames a difficult topic in an accessible and humorous light. Our production combines that heated sass and diversity which was the staple of shows like Glee and Queer As Folk, but with a bold, murky design which places the show expertly into its devastating context.
The first time I read the script for Consensual I was delighted with its intricacies and the way it keeps you guessing right up to the very end. The lead plotline following Diane and Freddie’s relationship is a deep and honest look into how festering desire can run away with you, and how those on the outside will never be able to fully understand why you did what you did. Diane, with the law against her, is forced to hide behind an ever-growing heap of lies; whilst Freddie is trying his best to confront actions which deep down he knows should never have happened, regardless of whose fault it was. Yet even after the show has finished, you are never quite sure what really happened, or where the blame should lie. This is something that Max has really pushed in directing the show: you should be constantly asking questions, not ever fully arriving at a clean-cut decision.
So Consensual offers a brutally honest portrayal of young people living in the perplexing world of today. It elegantly and explicitly explores themes which somehow still fall through the cracks not only in contemporary theatre, but also in the real-life classrooms which the play depicts. Despite it being one of the most pressing sexual issues confronting young people today, consent is something which still just isn’t spoken about. This is where Evan Placey’s script really hits the mark: it never shies away from acknowledging these taboos, whilst all the while maintaining a brilliant sense of humour.