The Age of Consent (FringeTIX)
Bareboards Productions @ The Bakehouse Theatre
7:00pm, Mon 10 Mar 2008
I’m sitting here wondering what to write for this performance. It’s nearly three days since I saw it in a steamy Bakehouse Theatre and, whilst I know the gist of what I want to write, I don’t really have a lot to work with.
So I open the programme, which I’d only glanced at on the night. I’d seen the usual director & performer bios, but I’d missed the article by playwright Peter Morris – originally published in The Guardian in 2001 – addressing the uproar surrounding The Age of Consent.
You see, The Age of Consent is two interspersed monologues – one by a domineering and aspiring mother of a six-year-old “actress”, the other an 18-year-old murderer just about to be released from prison. The latter character was inspired by the murderers of James Bulger – and from there came the controversy, with Bulger’s mother labeling the play “pathetic and sick” (despite not having seen it, and mistakenly assuming it was a comedy).
Whilst there are some elements of humour present, Consent is most definitely not a comedy. The male murderer character is genuinely remorseful – though not always for the right reasons – and hopelessly confused; yes, he knows he’s done wrong, but is completely at a loss as to why. The female character is blinded by stars, unable to see what she’s doing to her daughter, unable to see the danger she’s putting her daughter in.
And that’s the unifying thread of The Age of Consent – the fact that society is allowing this mistreatment of children (in the guise of “for their own good”) to happen, in some cases encouraging it. The problem is that, even though the two performers are fine and the direction frugally competent, it’s just not a very compelling play. To be honest, I found reading the article in the programme to be better value; Morris explains his reasons for writing the way he does, and has some genuinely interesting comments on the anonymity afforded to the playwright and on Fringe writing.
But as for the play itself? Great premise, great message, dull outcome. And that’s all I really had to say.