Tough yet effective look at the culture of violence against women
This artful, caringly crafted examination of rape culture and sexual consent seems especially valuable in an era when a man who once advocated grabbing women 'by the pussy' can still be elected leader of the Western world. Presented at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of a showcase of work from New Zealand, Eleanor Bishop's hour-long production is all the more effective for being so clear-eyed and cool-headed. The writer-director makes intelligent use of audience participation via volunteers who read from trial transcripts and our direct, albeit anonymous, response to the performance itself via text messaging. Also featured are short but telling interviews with young people whose images we see as they speak. Their words, however, are voiced by the performer Karin McCracken, a theatre-maker, trained lawyer and, until recently, specialist educator for the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.
If all this sounds a tad dry, the result is anything but. McCracken is a prepossessing presence, engagingly forthright as she sets up an all-too-common central premise of a young woman who drinks too much, blacks out and is raped. This is neatly supplemented by a couple of amusing and revealing re-enactments of fantasy-peddling scenes from mainstream cinema. Crucially, the core issue of consent transcends demarcations of generation or gender. Equal parts saddening and angering, Bishop's modest but resonant and essential show has lodged itself in my consciousness.