“My phone is an extension of my sexuality” says Georgia, a fifteen year old schoolgirl in Evan Placey's provocative play, Consensual.
She uses it to Google “orgasm”, for sexting, and for making selfie porn. She sees her relationship with her boyfriend as consensual, and her consent to allow him to tie her up and pimp her out to his friends as the “compromise” that is part of love. Such is the brave new world of warped permissiveness.
Consensual starts like a contemporary high school musical with sub woof doof doof as we are introduced to a class room of co-eds, singing, strutting and skylarking in a sex education class, part of the newfangled “Healthy Relationships” curriculum.
Interesting to glean from the get go that the paired off, loved up couple, the two pupils in a committed relationship. seem the most healthy, along with the female swot and a gay lad willing to take the taunts for daring to discuss hetero-normative bias.
The class is run by Diane, aided by Mary, whom she is mentoring.
Seven years ago, Diane had a regrettable dalliance with one of her students, fifteen year old Freddie. Now Freddie has resurfaced, dropping the bombshell that he has reported the historical incident to the police.
Diane is now married, pregnant with her second child, so the consequences of her past impropriety now have a greater propensity to impact upon her present.
What are Freddie's motives? Is he still the manipulative male he was seven years ago?
And should Diane be punished for overstepping the line?
Evan Placey's play is a keenly observed, cleverly constructed and penetrating piece of emotive, thought provoking theatre that pendulum swings our notions of guilt and innocence, victim and perpetrator.
It unflinchingly examines the current cyber sexualisation of the young and the pitfalls facing teachers when open and honest discussion goes beyond the pure mechanics of sex education. The birds and the bees and condoms rolled onto bananas simply don’t cut it any more with a studentship that is au fait with felching, felatio and fetishism. Sex education equates to carnal knowledge, porn is the norm, and the students seem more focused and fixated on bukake than baccalaureate.
Consensual stands on the precipice and takes a hard look at the chasm between precious and precocious, guiding and grooming, protege and predator, and the borderline between the law and libido – the age of consent.
The first act is a swirling vortex of denial, malevolence, blackmail and betrayal. The second act strips away the obfuscation of selected memory, setting it seven years back to reveal what actually happened between Diane and Freddie. We learn Freddie was named after Freddie Mercury, his mother's favourite song being Under Pressure. Diane, in an affirmation of affinity with her pupil confesses she was named after the John Cougar song, Jack and Diane, somewhat perplexed that her mother would name her daughter after a character “introduced being fingered by her boyfriend”. Ironically, she becomes a “cougar” in the eyes of the needy, manipulative man child, an object of conquest.
Director Johann Walraven has made the choice to allow his actors, an energetic youth ensemble, to give Australian voice to the British text, and it works, the pertinence of the piece is universal.
Played against a blackboard set adorned with sex obsessed chalked graffiti, Consensual is confronting, compelling, and bound to confound consensus which makes it eminently worthy of consideration.
New Theatre presents
by Evan Placey
Director Johann Walraven
Venue: New Theatre | 542 King Street, Newtown, NSW
Dates: 14 March – 15 April 2017
Tickets: $35 – $20