By Libby Williamson
Getting a part in Consensual was a disorienting experience in itself. Having been a member of the Youth Theatre now for three years, I am well aware of the high standard of actors it houses. A cast of fifteen? That would only allow space for a fraction of the incredibly competent performers we work with; drama school prospects, multi-faceted actors and some of my absolute favourite people. So I know how lucky I am to even be writing this post- to have even made it this far. Not to mention how lucky I feel to have the character I do.
Consensual is a play I find very difficult to describe. It would be hard to present an accurate outline of this morally nuanced, troubling, yet endlessly funny show without spoiling some key aspect of the plot. There is a lot of time spent dancing in the periphery; avoiding, yet emphasising the main question of the show. Who is at fault here? Who can we blame?
It isn’t quite that straightforward. When I first read the script, I couldn’t shake it from my mind for several days afterwards. It wasn’t that it felt unfinished- it was that the conclusion had no definitive full stop. It didn’t preach. It simply presented a series of characters, undergoing a series of traumatic, rapidly escalating events, leaving the audience reeling. It then refused to pass judgement on any of them. There remains, then, a frustrating question mark, even once the story is done. People are left to draw their own conclusions. In a case where no character can be called truly blameless, it is up to the audience to decide who is at fault.
From the beginning of the rehearsal process we have all been intensely aware of how precarious the subject matter is. The kinds of abuse we explore in Consensual may not have happened to everyone, but they could have happened to anyone. Fortunately we have a receptive director who pushes our boundaries, but never fails to respect our limits. Our intense group conversation, early in the process, with an incredibly funny, fascinating woman who had actually been through similar events to the show was also vital, shedding a completely human light. We also took part in exercises where we developed and got into the mindset of our characters, with interesting results.
Every character in the show is complex and deeply flawed. Mine, Mary, an inept teacher who truly is only trying to do the right thing is a prime example. Finding similarities (even quite embarrassing ones), between her and myself over these months of rehearsal has meant a lot. Getting to really care about these characters we’re playing, even as they make, let’s face it, some truly terrible decisions, has given us each an attachment to the show which runs a little deeper. Even the most ridiculous moments in rehearsal have had something serious to anchor them. I am hopeful that this will come across when we finally bring it to the stage.
Read more about the making of Consensual from Director Max Lindsay
Click here to book tickets for Consensual