Penetration by Carolyn Lloyd-Davies. The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Marylebone NW8 to 9 October 2021 . 3***. William Russell.

This is one of those plays that will leave the audience arguing at the end about the issues it raises. Carolyn Lloyd-Davies has based it on true cases of alleged rape, cases everyone has probably read about when, after a party and drunk, a young man stays behind in the hostesses flat, they share a bed and at some point sex happens without her consent she says. Everyone has views but there is no way I want to enter into the arguments here, partly because I do not know the legal position with any certainty but also, as the play makes clear, in such cases newspapers get involved reporting the stort, social media erupts with abuse, comment – and worse – from people who hold views on rape, sometimes ill informed. and which damage the recipient, not necessarily the person charged, who has said something they disagree with.
Sean a young medical student, is invited by Anna to a party at her flat. She does not know him well but quite fancies him. They get drunk, he stays behind after the other guests have left, she lets him sleep with her – nothing happens but in the morning he wakes, she is snuggling up to him, he assumes it is an advance and responds – when she resists he stops, apologises and they have a perfectly amicable parting. But penetration has taken place without consent and that is rape. She later talks about it to friends, gets worried about it possibly being raoe and from there a series of unstoppable events happen as the police, duty lawyers, rape counsellors and friends with advice get involved. The young man is aghast, a mother’s boy, he sees his career destroyed, he is suspended from the university and things drag on for two years as the Crown Prosecution Service does whatever it does.
The complication is that Anna has a controlling lover, a smug, self satisfied Doctor, who wanted the freedom to have sex outside their relationship and they struck a deal which included not actually having full sex and no medical students. Deeply in love and terrified of upsetting him Anna had agreed to go along with this, but now she has broken the deal with Sean which makes her behaviour what it is.
Meanwhile Sean’s mother Felicity, herself once a rape victim, torn between believing her son could not have done such a thing and wanting to know what happened, interferes and becomes the victim of social media abuse. It is an interesting, challenging and disturbing piece, smoothly staged by director David Trevaskis, and well performed by the cast with Calum Wragg-Smith and Georgina Armfield particularly impressive as victim and perpetrator or perpetrator and victim – because that is the dilemma the audience faces. A woman has a right to say no but – and there one embarks on saying things that fine in private conversation but on line the ice is far too thin I reckon to start that here.
It also raises all sorts of issues like the attitude taken by the rape counsellor Anna meets, the overworked duty solicitor who advises Sean what to say, and the woman policeman who deals with Anna – and then there is the doctor lover who sees it all from how he is affected and could not care less about what happened. Lots to talk about then but in private conversations.

Sean; Calum Wragg-Smith.
Anna: Georgine Armfield.
Felicity, Sean’s mother: Louise Bangay.
Dr James Tang: Steve Chusak.
Vivienne Okeke: Amantha Edmead.
DC Novak: Rebecca Hunt.
DS Lee: Mike Anfield.
Suzy Persad: Amantha Edmead.
Facebook Users: members of the cast.
Director: David Trevaskis.
Movement Director: Emma Webb.
Set Designer: Sorcha Corcoran.
Lighting Designer: Roberto Esquenazi Alkabes.
Production photographs: Ori Jones.

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