Radioplay Review: Not a Love Story

Not a Love Story

After being violently raped by someone she thought was a friend, Maddy is urged by the police to go public and prosecute her attacker, with very mixed results.

LISTEN HERE, until Sunday 20th May.

I listened to this sometime predictable, often harrowing, account over the course of last week – despite the fact that I was often in serious danger of crying at my desk. From the recognisable and lighthearted beginning that quickly turns sinister and shocking, through the breakdown of friendships, relationships and family ties, to the final 15 minutes in the courtroom and the verdict (Not Guilty), I was hooked and compelled to continue listening.

Part of the reason I felt as though I couldn’t stop listening was the detail included in this play, and its desire to “kill the darlings” throughout. The rape takes place within the first five minutes of the first episode, in somewhat horrific detail, and in the fourth instalment Maddy describes to her boyfriend in a monotone that tells of her boredom of recounting the sordid tale exactly what happened to her. We are not given metaphors or cut-scenes, everything is told on-stage and directly to us, whether or not we feel ready to hear it. The detail and avoidance of shying away from the detail is sickening, but I appreciated the honesty with which this was told. There are a number of lines and scenes that brought home the brutality of the whole event, and just how atypical everyone’s reaction is when faced with such a sudden and life-changing event.

It is this compulsion to turn to the worst possible scenario that makes the story a little unbelievable, however. Maddy’s horrific attack not being enough; her friends turn against her as they believe that she is lying about the extent of the violence/consensual nature of the sex, her boyfriend dumps her once he hears the details of the rape, her father questions her willingness to sleep with her attacker and then turns to alcohol, her rapist fabricates a story about their imagined ‘sex life’ and journalists turn on her, suggesting too that she is a liar and deserves everything she gets. The number of Things Gone Wrong with this story are, I think, a little too high to be believable, but I’m willing to forgive that as I feel that this play stood as a metaphor for the theme of rape culture rather than a story of one girl’s impossible situation. Every possible viewpoint on Maddy’s rape, and a number of similar experiences, are represented in some way and to work all of this into 15-minute chunks is certainly a feat – and in this case one which has been completed successfully.

In spite of some clumsy and obvious dialogue, there were some truly poignant scenes in this drama, and while the characters are sometimes quite clearly vehicles for rape culture viewpoints it is hard not to find an opinion that challenges. I think it’s definitely worth a listen, even if you think you know what your opinions are, as there’ll be sure to be something that sticks in the mind. Finally, kudos to R4 Woman’s Hour for not turning away from something so divisive, and instead using their 15-Minute Drama vehicle for something so radically different.

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