At a glance, Consensual at the Ambassadors Theatre doesn't look promising: new writing, performed by trainee actors, examining the 'blurred lines' of 'healthy relationships', 'grooming' and 'consent'. No thank you, sounds hideous.
But the National Youth Theatre's play is a stand-out success: superbly acted, wholly engrossing, it questions everything you think you know about compassion, power, right and wrong.
Playwright Evan Placey pushes the student/teacher relationship to its extremes. Inspired by the government's announcement that 'Consent' and 'Healthy Relationships' were to be taught from a younger age at school, Placey follows the life of heavily pregnant Head of Year 11 Diane (Lauren Lyle), who is attempting to implement the new 'Healthy Relationships' curriculum upon a class of boisterous young minds raised on a diet of Nicki Minaj lyrics and freely available internet porn.
She is distracted by the arrival of former pupil Freddie: a troubled young man who has been to the police to report her for grooming him six years previously. Neither can remember that night six years ago, but both feel hard done by. Who is the abused? Who is the aggressor? And is it possible to stop the nightmarish unfolding of events, as the past threatens to pull their lives apart?
Evan Placey playwright
It's little surprise that Evan Placey, playwright, recently won a Writers' Guild Award for Best Play for Young Audiences for Girls Like That (Unicorn Theatre). From the moment the curtain lifts before a grotty stage and nasty club music, a gripping series of lies and confessions come spilling from the lips of the two central characters, Diane (Lauren Lyle) and Freddie (Oscar Porter-Brentford) accompanied by bubbling hostility.
The acting is spot on. Lyle effortlessly presents the strong-willed, self-assured teacher once overwhelmed by feelings of compassion and - dare it be said - lust. Porter-Brentford's fifteen-year-old Freddie is spectacular, at once immeasurably unhappy, angry and gleeful in every fragmented half thought that he has. The crowd of rowdy teenagers provide excellent comic relief as well as reminding us of how difficult it must be to come of age in a sexualised world where naked selfies are commonplace and everyone wants to be Rhianna.
National Youth Theatre actors
It's no wonder that the National Youth Theatre has produced the likes of Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Day-Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Tate, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ashley Jensen, Sir Derek Jacobi, Timothy Dalton, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Hugh Bonneville and Matt Smith, to name a few.
This is a brilliant albeit challenging play, not for the sensitive or faint-hearted. We would recommend it to teenagers but only those over the age of 15 who can handle crude language and scenes of a sexual nature.
|Where||Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London, WC2H 9ND | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
13 Oct 15 – 02 Dec 15, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Tuesday 20. November 2015 Tuesday 3, Wednesday 4, Tuesday 10, Wednesday 11, Wednesday 18, Tuesday 24. December 2015 Wednesday 2
|Price||£12 - £27.50|
|Website||Click here to book tickets|