Theatre review: Jane Doe

Karin McCracken makes use of court transcripts to explore the subject area. Picture: Robin Kerr
Karin McCracken makes use of court transcripts to explore the subject area. Picture: Robin Kerr
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: It’s not how you expect a show about rape culture to start: “Hi there,” says Karin McCracken, wandering the audience, welcoming us into the theatre and helping us to use our phones to log on to the website that forms an interactive part of the performance.

Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17)


She tells us that the words we’re about to see, hear and read have been taken from the transcripts of high-profile rape cases and other real-life sources. And if we want to leave at any point we can. OK?

Despite the sometimes-tough subject matter, it is indeed OK: this is a sensitively handled conversational piece that treats its audience with care while also placing rape in its wider social and cultural context. Writer-director Eleanor Bishop juxtaposes a variety of women’s experiences and thoughts on a range of subjects – from objectification to sexuality to the media – with the court case transcripts, which audience members help read, and gathered social media content, all of which we can (through our smart phones) directly respond to. This leads to a heated on-screen debate between a number of people in a way that feels refreshingly pragmatic, particularly when so many issue-led plays are a one-way conversation.

In the same way Jane Doe becomes a placeholder name for the women who have been attacked, McCracken becomes a single voice for those who are interviewed – the message appearing to be that we are more powerful when we speak as one.

The company is keen to avoid bringing victims/survivors unwanted attention, but at times it can feel like their voices are being omitted from their own stories as a result. However, the piece is less about highlighting specific cases than trying to collectively work out why rape happens, and taking shared responsibility – whether we’re men or women, or have direct experience of it or not – for making it stop.

Until 28 August. Today 3pm.