Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Asking for It

Adapted by Meadhbh McHugh
Repertory, Birmingham 

In one standout scene in this claustrophobic play, a teenage girl worries that everything she believes to be right will turn out to be wrong. In another, the protagonist Emma (an excellent Lauren Coe), in the aftermath of being gang-raped at a party, tries to seduce her friend Conor, who has always carried a torch for her. The moral uncertainty, and that confusion of sex with intimacy, are painfully plausible — as is almost every detail of Meadhbh McHugh’s adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s bestselling YA novel. The first act skilfully sketches the dynamics of Emma’s friendship group at her school in Co Cork. In the second, after the attack, we see the gulf between Emma and her parents (Dawn Bradfield and Simon O’Gorman), who can hardly meet her eye. The play has been a huge hit in Ireland, yet the transition from page to stage feels only partially successful. There’s an overreliance on voiceover and, while the play shows society’s tendency to interrogate the motivations of the victim more than those of the perpetrators, it maintains a similar focus. This said, we do need to talk about consent. It may be that everything we think is right is wrong.