Jane Doe

Nobody wants to be lectured. That phrase suggests being sat, face down at your desk, with a monotoned teacher informing you in thorough detail just how the Roman Empire came to power. In Jane Doe, the audience are undoubtedly lectured, but that lecture is vital, important, attention-grabbing and consistently poignant. To go into too much detail of just what makes Jane Doe such a special viewing experience would cheat future audience members out of its emotional experience, but suffice to say it is an unforgettable and unique Fringe experience without all the trappings that such a phrase would usually imply.

Jane Doe is a lecture, but it is one of the most engaging and important lectures ever given in a university building.

In Jane Doe, the audience sit and listen to Karin McCracken talk about rape. She talks about it nebulously and without fanfare or pretension, but with skill, grace and an engaging intensity. She is constantly aware of the audience and does her best to keep them comfortable and safe in these sensitive discussions. This sensitive treatment at no point feels like due diligence or an attempt to score points, but instead feels like natural, legitimate respect given to the subject matter and its victims. There is audience interaction but these elements are carefully managed and scripted so there is no point in which the show is allowed to stray from careful attention to its message and intention. Jane Doe is an important show that knows it is important, but uses that knowledge responsibly.

Karin McCracken is an incredibly talented performer. She is likeable without ever being cloying, relaxed without ever losing energy and dedicated to every word she says with admirable passion and care. She laughs off any brief disruptions to the planned events of the show and treats audience members, both those interacting with her and watching her in the crowd, with endless charm and good humour. It is the treatment of its subject matter that gives Jane Doe its power, but it is McCracken who gives the show its heart and soul. The fact that she is an impressively deft hand with accents doesn’t hurt either, lending one of the most poignant moments of the show some additional humour and kudos.

Jane Doe has bells and whistles, but the elements of audience interaction and minor technical feats all exist in service of the material at hand. Dealing with a sensitive issue like sexual assault on college campuses would lead to all but the most respectful of creative people shying away from simple honesty. Brutally intense coverage of rape and sexual assault has been seen before, as well as very worrying simplification or diversion of the issues at the heart of the subject matter. But Jane Doe talks about campus rape as it has never been talked about on stage: Simply, matter-of-factly, and with heart, humour and intelligence. Jane Doe may not seem like something one wants to watch, dealing with as heartbreaking a central issue as it does, but it unquestionably should be seen by as many people as possible.

At the end of the show, there is a very short bow and Karin McCracken thanks us for coming. There is no real fanfare and no attempt to create the illusion the audience weren’t simply sitting in a university lecture theatre for the last hour. That is where Jane Doe finds its biggest strength. As we leave we are given the chance to donate to a rape crisis support charity and given phone numbers for if we want to learn more about what we just saw. This does not seem like it is done with intent to gain plaudits, which is exactly why Jane Doe deserves the same respect it gives the victims it discusses. Jane Doe is a lecture, but it is one of the most engaging and important lectures ever given in a university building.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Jane Doe goes to a party. She gets drunk. She blacks out. She is raped. This is a participatory theatre show reflecting on rape culture in our communities. One performer leads a public reading of a rape trial transcript, where audience members read as witnesses and lawyers and feed in live responses via their phones. Interwoven with frank and funny documentary footage with young people from the US, UK and Aotearoa, Jane Doe is a revelatory and carefully crafted discussion on consent, feminism and sexual empowerment. Created by Eleanor Bishop. Part of NZatEdinburgh.com

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