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Actually (Till Aug 31) – Play Review Actually (Till Aug 31) – Play Review
Actually (Till Aug 31) – Play Review

It’s been shown that one in five US college females has experienced sexual assault, with the highest risk been in the first few months of the first and second semesters. This and issues of race, truth and the line between rape and sexual consent is forensically explored in this taut, psychologically and politically charged two header by playwright Anna Ziegler (Photograph 51, starring Nicole Kidman).


Tom, a newly arrived freshman is eager to taste all that college has to offer, the good, bad and ugly even though he’s very conscious that he’s one of the few black students on campus.


Abetted by his gay new friend Sunil, he plans to have as many sexual encounters as possible in his first few weeks. One of the girls that comes onto his radar is the slightly awkward looking Amber.


They are intrigued by each other. She of his raw sexual magnetism and him of her shy, repressed but somehow beguiling air. After a session of heavy drinking and partying they decide to spend the night together.


Amber wakes up next morning, dazed and confused. What actually happened? She remembers Tom being a bit rough, but did she really consent to sex? There’s a lingering doubt.


After confessing such to her friend, she’s pressured to reporting the incident and soon find herself facing Tom in front of a panel whose role is to determine the ‘truth’ of that fateful night.


By cleverly juxtaposing flashbacks of the night from both parties with insights of the past lives and personalities of both accuser and defendant, director Oscar Toeman, allows us slowly draw our own conclusions from the two opposing versions of the incident.


Simon Manyonda is a compelling watch as Tom. With his expressive voice that alternated between indignation and malevolence we learn of his tortured sometimes lonely childhood and the anger in adulthood as he’s judged by his colour rather than his being. Who we learn is given to outbursts of rage.


Yasmin Page is wonderful as the emotionally repressed Amber raised in a dysfunctional Jewish family. Who seems to have spent much of her life living in the shadows of others. Firstly her father and lately her college friend. Never truly been brave enough to express her own thoughts, we’re left wondering if her accounts of what happened were her own or that of others or even a reflection of her own and often confused mind.


Actually boldly delves into the messiest of grey areas and the inter sectional complexities of race, religion and gender, controversially picking at our individual biases and internalised prejudices in ‘he said, she said’ cases of sexual consent.


With a simple stage setting and at 90 minutes, Actually is great value and a thought provoking play. Simply because we’re left to ponder long after the play end, as to what happened, and who if anybody is the guilty party.


Hot on the heels of hot of recent documentaries It Happened One Night (Louis Theroux/ BBC) and Sex on Trial (Channel 4), it’s a wake up call that the area between consent and assault are getting more blurred and less clear despite changes in legislation and societal attitudes.


Actually is a deeply absorbing and moving watch that throws up as many questions about sexual consent as it answers.


Actually, Till August 31 @ Traflagar Studio 2, 7:30 pm £various https://trafalgarentertainment.com/shows/actually/

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