Lionheart Theatre bring 20 Minutes of Action to EdFringe’s Pleasance for 2022. This sharp, emotional piece of verbatim theatre sheds light on issues of women’s safety, the injustice within a patriarchal society, and the devastating effects of rape culture.
Taking the exact words of the victims, families and perpetrator involved in a true life story of sexual assault, 20 Minutes of Action changes names, dates and places for legal reasons. This fifty minute piece centres on the case of an Ivy league college sports star sentenced to six months imprisonment (yet only serving three) for raping an unconscious young woman after a college party. 20 Minutes of Action examines the destructive repercussions on the victim’s life and the voices of those involved in the aftermath of the sentencing.
Collated and directed by Pollyanna Esse, seven performers take to a dimly lit and sparsely decorated Pleasance Courtyard stage with all but a small number of chairs as a means of staging props. Opening with a short video recreating the events leaving the courthouse and the assurance that only slight changes have been made to the true story, 20 Minutes of Action soon delves into the aftermath of the trial – exploring the various perspectives of those involved.
With this simple and effective staging, it allows us to fully immerse in the performances of 20 Minutes of Action’s talented young cast. Testimony from The Victim is presented with a brutal honesty and natural raw emotion. A night of carefree partying is recounted by both The Victim and The Perpetrator, but events take a harrowing turn after non-consensual and sexually abusive behaviour takes hold. Examining the weight of male privilege in the courtroom, 20 Minutes of Action captures The Perpetrator’s claims that it was consensual (despite The Victim’s unconsciousness) and his indignation about being regarded as a sex offender – bitter at the opportunities lost through this heinous crime. The Perpetrator’s parents further this sense of misguided anger – the title even chosen given the father’s remarks of this being a “a steep price … for 20 minutes of action.” The Perpetrator utilising the excuse of the culture of college partying and casual sex as a means of removing blame from himself further the sense of outrageous privilege that permeates through his side of the narrative.
Testimonies from The Victim and her sister serve as a vital means to reframe the narrative, bringing a small glimmer of justice to someone failed by the justice system. This gains added impact by intercutting The Victim’s viewpoint throughout The Perpetrator’s – allowing the hypocrisy of his testimony to be highlighted as and when it is delivered.
A powerful moment sees the piece’s female performers share the multitude of invasive and specific questions fired at The Victim with the performers building in speed and intensity. Small yet effective scenes such as this build a larger picture of the patriarchal bias of the legal system with the inherent victim blaming and favouring the story of the affluent male perpetrator over the female victim. A chilling line shares that any information The Victim cannot fill in, The Perpetrator will.
20 Minutes of Action boldly reframes a truly controversial court ruling in a sharply effective and prescient manner highlighting the injustice of a patriarchal society where issues regarding women’s safety, consent and rape culture must urgently be addressed.