Saturday 11 February 2017

Review by Beth Gaylard of "Collegiate" by Natalie Beech, Brigitte Adela and Written Foundations Theatre Company

Collegiate is a production by Written Foundations Theatre Company, a partnership of director Brigitte Adela with playwright Natalie Beech.  Original music (by Selim Ben Rabha and Matthew Daly) and lighting were elegantly worked out to complement the drama, without distracting from it. I saw it in the Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester.

Set on a campus in freshers’ week, Collegiate is a story about friendship and pseudo-friendship, as well as sexual politics. At the heart of the play is a rape, which is not accepted as such by any of the characters, not even at times, by Tash (played by Rebecca Tubridy) to whom it happens. The brutality of the assault (not portrayed graphically) is matched by the nastiness of Tash’s and Kev’s friends. Tash’s friends scrutinise her behaviour and withdraw their affection in the aftermath of the assault - while Kev (played by Stephen Love) is the butt of more savvy young men, whose laddism contributes to the events. It’s the laddism that is really under scrutiny here – the play effectively challenges assumptions about sexual consent.
The portrayal of Tash’s situation (and its consequences) avoids the ‘victim’ stereotypes associated with those who’ve suffered a sexual assault, focussing on the personal horror – the uniqueness of the experience and the isolation it brings in its wake, as onlookers decide for themselves who’s at fault. 

All this is conveyed through a fast-moving script and excellent acting. There is humour in the piece, but like the music, it complements the story and never detracts from the serious subject – and both actors convincingly portrayed the dilemmas of Tash and Kev.

This is a piece of work that deserves a wider audience – particularly of the young people it’s aimed at, so I was pleased to hear from Written Foundations hope to stage Collegiate at the Edinburgh Festival in August. Catch it if you can. And incidentally, if you happen to have any links with sixteen plus education, it would be well worth booking a performance workshop for your students, as they think about heading off for university themselves.                                     
About the reviewer
Beth Gaylard is a teacher, writer and MA  student at the University of Leicester. She lives in Leicestershire in a weird modernist house that will one day feature in a bestselling novel or film, hopefully her own.

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