Monday, November 19, 2018

Wasted – a stark, powerful and timely play about consent (Pintsized Productions)

In the week that members of the public and a TD in the Dáil protested against a thong being shown to the jury in a Cork rape trial, Pintsized Productions performance of Wasted is very timely.

The defence lawyer told the jury in the Cork case: “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

In Wasted, a young woman who passed out after a heavy night of drinking realises that she may have been raped, yet comments on the “slutty” length of her own dress as if to excuse the man’s possible actions, and later admits that while a police officer conducting an interview is “not judging me, but I am”.

UU Drama graduate Kat Woods is the writer behind Wasted which was performed at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival before a run in London and New York. She’s also the playwright of Belfast Boy, Mule and Skintown.

Wasted examines consensual sex within the context of a one-night stand. Emma (Shannon Wilkinson) becomes separated from her friend who had her bag and phone, and ends up going home in a taxi with Oli (Thomas Martin), a fella she fancies who seems to be a knight in shining armour rescuing her in her drunk and vomiting state. But the night before is a blur the next morning; though she feels tender and confides to her friend that Oli may have had drunken sex with her.

The some of the language of the 2015 play resonates with the evidence at the high-profile rugby rape trial in Belfast earlier this year is perhaps emblematic of lad culture and its vocabulary.

Wasted is hugely physical with director Nuala Donnelly adding stylistic and frantic choreographed sequences that wouldn’t be out of place in a dance show. The actors throw each other around, bouncing off each other and use every square metre of the small upstairs stage in The American Bar.

The action freezes while voicemail messages are left. Scenes jump back and forth in time. The two cast members switch roles and genders, playing around ten different characters, sometimes stepping sideways from one to the other, or spinning around to reset the chairs to signal the next location.

Despite the pace, characterisation never becomes blurred or confused. While Thomas Martin makes a fine girlfriend, Shannon Wilkinson is mesmerising as she transforms into a bouncer, a lewd mate, a policeman, each with a new gait, swagger and neck movements.

Pintsized Productions’ Gerard McCabe sums up the show as “three lights, two actors and one speaker”. Yet the script, the direction, the cast and the sound effects allow this focussed play to speak into Northern Ireland’s still dubious understanding of consent.
“I didn’t hear her say no … consent to me is like a feeling and I know what we felt, but now I’m doubting myself is that what she felt.”

Wasted is full of flirting, dancing, swearing, tension, confusion, self-doubt, denial and consequences. It’s is a well-constructed yet stark reminder that particularly deserves to be widely seen by young men and women across Northern Ireland. Though that’s not to deny its relevance for all age-groups in a society that struggles to put respect and the law above stimulant-induced lust.

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