Consensual – The Review.
National Youth Theatre 2018 REP company has revived Evan Placey’s Consensual at the Soho Theatre, three years after they first performed it at the Ambassador’s Theatre. The play follows a young, married teacher trying to teach her pupils about healthy relationships, when she finds herself wrapped up in questions of sex and consent after an ex-pupil she slept with when he was 15 comes back to haunt her.
This production definitely grabs the attention— its first act immediately sucks you into the crux of the story, with energetic performances from the whole company, including various song and dance breaks which connect one scene to another and help move slickly between set ups. The stylistic elements of the play definitely elevated it beyond a normal high school drama. In one particularly memorable moment, a mound of chairs and tables are turned into a car. As someone who has done enough devised theatre in my time, that really impressed me and made every transition I’ve ever come up with seem highly unimaginative.
The play’s unconventional structure, with its dynamic, physical first act giving way to a much quieter and realistic second half, does mean the play loses some of its momentum and ends without a feeling of total closure. Even though I really enjoyed the scene that comprised the second half of the play with its hyper-realistic set and toned-down acting, this was somewhat of a letdown, with so many storylines left hanging, and no conclusion to the drama of the first half. It certainly leaves the audience having to come to their own decision about the ethics of it all, which seems to be what Placey intended.
The acting is certainly the standout of this production. Marilyn Nnadebe does a fantastic job with a very complicated role as Diane, and the same goes for Fred Hughes-Stanton playing opposite her. While some of the students felt a little too much like one-note stereotypes, as I think tends to happen when adults try to write high-schoolers, the company all brought great enthusiasm and vitality to their parts. Particularly worth noting, I think, are Alice Vilanculo and Laurie Ogden, who manage to make their one scene together a highlight of the entire play.
If you get the chance to catch this play in the last week of its run, definitely take it— it’s well worth it for the acting alone, and you’ll probably be seeing some of the big names of the future in this young company.
This review was written by Meg Hain, co-host of the popular show ‘Culture Shock!’ – on KCL Radio every Thursday night from 9-10pm.