Following successful runs at the Park Theatre and Edinburgh Fringe, Endless Second has arrived at London’s Pleasance Theatre. The play explores consent within relationships and how two people deal with the trauma of rape. I spoke with writer Theo Toksvig-Stewart, director Camilla Gürtler and stage manager Charlotte Brown to find out more.
Can you tell me more about the production?
CAMILLA: Endless Second is a play about consent within a relationship. M and W meet at university and fall in love. They’re the essence of young love. But after a drunken night W says no to sex, and M continues. And so we follow the aftermath of the incident and how it affects their relationship.
THEO: It’s been a long journey to the Pleasance. We first performed Endless Second at Theatre503 in January and returned there in July for our Edinburgh previews. Then it was the Pleasance Below at the Fringe where we were fortunate enough to be shortlisted for a couple of awards before being picked for the Park Theatre and Pleasance’s best of the Fringe season. It’s been tough but so amazing to get it to this point.
Where did inspiration for the play come from?
THEO: I had a number of conversations with female friends in the wake of the #MeToo movement around their experiences of sexual violence and assault. The feeling that this evoked really stayed with me for a long time and I knew I wanted to write something about it, but it wasn’t until I saw Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger’s extremely powerful TedTalk on rape and reconciliation that the idea of writing about consent from the point of view of a loving, supportive relationship hit me.
CAMILLA: After Theo brought the play to me we took inspiration from the many women and men who came out with their experiences with #MeToo, but also from talks with our friends, families and acquaintances about the many incidents and experiences that happens on a daily basis outside of the public eye – particularly involving people we know and trust. It became an important voice to listen to throughout the entire process.
Why do you think it’s important to tell this story now?
THEO: So much brilliant work has been done to create a space for victims of rape/sexual abuse/harassment to voice their experience which has shed light on the prolific nature of this issue. There’s never been a more important time to have these conversations and tell these stories, and now we need to keep having those difficult, awkward, painful discussions and engage men in the conversation to reflect and take an active part in moving forward together.
CAMILLA: Sexual violence and abuse is sadly still such a big part of our culture and manifests itself in ways that aren’t necessarily all black and white – which means it’s important to talk about what consent means, on a day-to-day basis, and especially in schools and universities. There was a big shift with #MeToo, especially in work places, which has created some much-needed positive change – but we still need to raise awareness of these issues on a personal level, in situations that involves people we know.
CHARLOTTE: It’s such a beautifully easy story to watch and relate too. The small bickering and natural conversations can be identified in your own relationships, so you can grasp a better understanding of this topic not just in the news, but in your day to day life.
What can audiences expect?
THEO: I think they can expect to have their emotions played with and to feel awkward and conflicted at points. But I think what a lot of audience members don’t expect when they come in is that they’ll have a few laughs as well.
They can expect a story that we can all relate to, in it’s beautiful, funny, sweet and painful depiction of a young relationship. It keeps the balance. And we also have some stunning visual moments!
CHARLOTTE: Quick paced scenes, snappy lights and great music telling an important story in a comfortable and safe environment.
How has the production developed since it was performed at the Fringe?
THEO: I think the biggest development was getting outside the Fringe bubble. Edinburgh is an all-consuming experience where you barely have room to think, and being able to take that time away from the play and have that space means as actors, we can come back to it fresh and it’s great fun because it’s like we’re doing it for the first time again. It means we can discover all those little moments that we hadn’t explored before and keep it alive and unpredictable for the audience.
CAMILLA: Our audience has become much clearer. The Fringe has a wonderfully mixed audience and everyone’s very open to seeing things that are out of their comfort zone – but it’s also becoming clearer to us that we need to reach young people going through all these things; figuring out their sexual relationships, how we read each other and all of that fuzzy stuff, for it to really have a social impact.
What do you hope audiences take away from the production?
THEO: If we can give the audience something to think about when they leave that stays in their head in the bar, on the way home or over the next day or two, that’s really all we can hope for. I’d like it if they came away from the play with their preconceptions of what they were expecting and how they think about rape and relationships challenged. But most of all I hope they (maybe not the right word) enjoy themselves.
CAMILLA: We want them to leave with something – a thought, an image, a feeling, anything that carries the essence of what this play is about. That two people who love each other can end up in this, and that it doesn’t mean they’re bad people, but it means we need to re-think how we have these conversations and understand the issue in the first place. It’s that fine balance between something that roots up your perspective and compels you to action, but at the same time is also moving and enjoyable to watch.
To book tickets to Endless Second, click here