Low-key, thoughtful look at a big problem

Jane Doe, in this play, is used as a name for women who’ve been sexually assaulted, writes Barbara Frame.

Barbara Frame
Barbara Frame

They may be young, they may have drunk too much, they may have been assaulted by one person, or more than one. The case may or may not come to court, and a conviction may or may not ensue. The focus is not on how horrible it is to be raped — it’s assumed that the audience understands this to some extent at least — but on the pervasiveness of rape culture, its constant presence in women’s lives, its limiting influence on how those lives are lived, and the silence, indifference and shame that it feeds on. It also encourages reflection on the ways in which it’s nurtured by media influences.

Performer Karin McCracken works with material developed by Eleanor Bishop from interviews and court proceedings, largely in the US. Audience members volunteer to read from real court transcripts, and each of the women who co-operated in these roles last night made an excellent contribution. In contrast to the usual strict "no phones" rule at theatrical performances, those present were encouraged to send text messages about how they were feeling and how the play was affecting them, and messages were displayed on a screen for all to read.

The performance ends on a hopeful note with glimpses of a world in which consent is respected and women’s lives can be freer and more fulfilling. The #MeToo movement isn’t mentioned, but is clearly part of the play’s background.

Low-key rather than highly dramatic, Jane Doe provides a thoughtful look at a big problem that, just maybe, can be overcome by being increasingly recognised, discussed and understood.


Jane Doe

• Community Gallery, Friday, September 21

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