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How wonderful it is to watch a play dealing with such a sensitive topic in a most nurturing, careful, and thoughtful way. Text-in forum performance,  ‘Yes Yes Yes’ by Eleanor Bishop (Co-Creator & Director) and Karin McCracken (Co-Creator & Performer) explores the themes and teaches skills around body, consent, sex and sexuality, and healthy relationships.

The starting point was two identical situations at a party with completely different outcomes. A girl and a guy are flirting. They both want to have sex. The girl starts second-guessing whether she wants to have intercourse. In the first scenario, the guy makes the girl feel safe, demonstrates empathy, and validates her feelings. In the second scenario, the guy doesn’t listen to the girl and doesn’t stop in his intentions. Both girls behaved the same way; the difference was in the actions of their partners. In addition to learning about the importance of consent and exploring the various forms it can take, a significant theme of the play is the comfort and understanding that we can offer to victims of sexual violence. The audience also becomes an actor in several scenes. The actress invites them to the stage where they read the characters’ correspondence from the party. Direct audience engagement, especially in the context of such a delicate subject, I believe, contributes to the development of empathy among the audience and an understanding that a victim of sexual violence can be anyone.

For the purpose of the play, the authors worked with ‘Rape Prevention Education’ as advisors to ensure they were role-modelling safe behaviour and they also enlisted the help of Year 13 students from three secondary schools – ‘Papakura High School’ and ‘Epsom Girls’ Grammar School’ in Auckland, and ‘Newlands’ College in Wellington. Recorded interviews with pupils in which they talked about their expectations of a first kiss or sex, their experience, and what they find troubling or problematic regarding romantic relationships, served as an intermezzo between the two main stories. Although teenagers gave mature, educated and sincere answers, some of them were adorably fine – they were referring to themselves as ‘single pringle’, they talked about their misconceptions about the first kiss, cringiest moments…

Language, themes, style, aesthetic wise play ‘Yes Yes Yes’ is a perfect example of how theatre for young people should look, sound and be like. Looking at the regional context, the topic of consent is a hot one because since two years ago we have a feminist movement similar to #metoo, so that brings another dimension to the local importance of this performance. 

How beautiful it is to have had the opportunity to watch it.

Divna Stojanov is a dramaturg and playwright. She also writes theatre reviews.