Tonight, following its sold-out run at the National Theatre, Nina Raine’s blistering new play, Consent, is opening at Harold Pinter Theatre.
The topical and timely play puts relationships on trial and asks the question: is justice blind?
The legal drama had rave reviews during its previous run and many of the original cast members have reprised their roles for its West End run. We caught up with two of them, Heather Craney and Adam James, to discuss new writers, TV, and the importance of Consent.
Previews start tonight, how have preparations been going?
Heather: Very good. Pretty exciting because it’s a mixture of old and new cast.
Adam: It’s been a weird period of allowing the new cast to find their feet while still having a muscle memory, sort of like a ghost, of the last version of it. But there are some newer elements of the play that didn’t exist at the National production that are thrilling. It’s exciting.
How is working on the same play in a different setting?
Adam: It’s really exciting. I think we still need a little shaping and finessing and of course, we’re in a very different space than we were in the National – it was sort of traverse there and now we’re front on. I think there’s a lot more to explore and I think we can dare to take up a bit more of the stage. I think it will just happen instinctively when we have a live audience.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Consent, how would you describe it?
Heather: Well, it’s got a bit of everything in it. It’s very, very funny. And it’s very, very moving. You know, it’s concentrated on anyone who’s been in a relationship. It’s deep and there’s something for everyone, definitely.
Adam: There are so many different levels to it. It’s an inside look into the world of lawyers and relationships. But on the other side, it’s an homage to Greek classical plays and the tragedy ensued in those. It’s a really brilliantly layered bit of writing.
Did the comedy surprise you?
Adam: That’s a tricky one because I know Nina and I’ve done a lot of her plays and she always does that clever thing of imbuing humour in very serious things. I was sort of crassly aware that it was going to be very, very funny.
Heather: Same here. And also, it’s funny in that kind of gallows humour that barristers, surgeons or anyone that’s under a lot of pressure have. That sort of sense of humour that audiences can tune into and you find yourself drawn into that world. [Nina] is very clever at observing what profession is like.
What made you want to be in Consent?
Heather: To me, I’d seen [Nina’s] work. I saw Tribes at the Royal Court, and when I read [Consent], I was just crying by the time I got to the end of it. And I was also laughing, I mean really laughing, out loud. I Just thought it was amazing writing.
Adam: For me, it was my relationship with Nina. And if I’m honest, I think she created Jake with me in mind. So it was a bit hard not to want to do it. And I’d never worked with Roger [Michell] before and I love his work. It was just one of those rare opportunities where every box is ticked. You had a great piece of writing, a great playwright, a great director and a great venue.
Consent is a very important and relevant topic at the moment, what does this production add to the conversation?
Heather: It is very topical at the moment and I think Consent shows the system needs urgent reform. It does. And I think especially when it comes to disclosure – in rape cases and the criminal justice system. It also highlights the news and all of the cases that have been in the news a lot lately.
Adam: I think Nina was having this conversation or debate way before the movement – #metoo and all of that, overdue as it was, of course – so it’s only been a positive thing to add to the conversation. And hopefully, we’ll keep the conversation alive and push it forward in other ways. More people will be able to see [Consent] now and we can afford a lot more people to see this particular debate in this particular climate.
You both work on TV as well as stage, what do enjoy about theatre and how does it differ to screen work?
Adam: I think typically the writing on stage is often better. Of course, there have been massive improvements in TV but I think historically, plays are often just better. And you’re afforded that time to create it. You’re given four to six weeks to create a play and you’re not afforded the same luxury in TV and film. And the live element can never be underestimated. It’s such a unique experience you don’t get with television and film.
Heather: I agree. The whole thing about filming a scene and stopping and starting… compared to just doing a whole play from beginning to end and doing it with other people is just really… unique.
Who inspired you to become performers and how?
Adam: I just always had an attraction towards it. There’s nothing in my family legacy dictating that that’s the way I should go but I found my way into it and never really looked back. I was just lucky enough that I found what I wanted to do early on. I was fortunate enough to cheat people into working with me and to keep employing me. And may let that continue.
Heather: That was Adam James on his last job…
Heather: But really, it was the same for me. It was just something that I felt I was on the path to doing. It came naturally, really. And I just kind of carried on.
Lastly, if it’s not already obvious, why should people see Consent?
Adam: It’s relevant, thought-provoking, moving, funny, and irreverent.
Heather: Yes, that’s very good. I was going to say to think. To make you think and get your brain working. It really gives you something to think about and discuss.
Adam: I think it’s also about new writing. We underestimate how often there are good new playwrights… they’re gold dust. So we should run to see it because when new writing is really, there’s nothing quite as thrilling in the theatre.
Heather: Yeah, the writing makes you very proud to be in a piece like this. It’s so well written and directed.
Consent opens tonight, 18 May, and plays until 11 August. To get your tickets, visit our Consent tickets page.