Gillian Greer’s new play navigates the subject of sexual consent with unflinching honesty.
Max (India Mullen) is visiting her ex-boyfriend Ronan (Sean Fox) at his swanky Dublin restaurant. She has come to tell him that the night he sexually assaulted her is going to be included in her new book. She also wants answers.
Shortlisted two years ago for a Theatre503 award, the play challenges assumptions about how victims respond to sexual assault and shows how trauma can lead to messy, confusing and sometimes seemingly illogical reactions. The victim might not immediately realise they’ve been abused, and silence does not always equate with consent.
In Lucy Jane Atkinson’s production, food becomes violent and sexual. Bloodied animal carcasses hang on hooks, stomachs splayed, open and raw, and dinner courses are splattered across the walls – Max smears foie gras across the paintwork and gorges on ice cream, regurgitating liquid all over the floor.
Mullen’s performance is gut-wrenching as Max battles to reconcile the man who assaulted her with the man with whom she once had a relationship. In Fox’s hands, Ronan’s extreme behaviour, from harmless “thick-as-shit lad” to someone who hurls tables across rooms, is unsettling.
Restaurant manager Jo (Elinor Lawless) is a necessary addition, offering lighter touches with her humorous interjections. There’s only one point where you want her to slip away so the tension can be allowed to build between Max and Ronan.
Intimacy director Adelaide Waldrop has cleverly negotiated moments of closeness between Max and Ronan – a hand on the face, an embrace – heightening the physical tension on stage, while Annie May Fletcher’s sound design, a thudding heartbeat and long, deep breaths, continually returns our attention to the body.