On Thursday night, I sat nervously in Byram’s Arcade in Huddersfield and watched the very first performance of initial scenes from my stage adaptation of Medusa, a script I’m working on with Proper Job theatre company and playwright Kevin Fegan. My interpretation of the myth focuses on Medusa’s rape by Poseidon and her subsequent punishment, a story that seems alarmingly contemporary.
In the ‘research and development’ show on Thursday, we invited audience members to give their feedback on the script. Afterwards, one woman in the crowd chose to comment on the order in which the scenes were presented, with a monologue from Poseidon coming before Medusa’s account of her rape: this seemed convincing, she said, because we’re used to hearing the man’s narrative first or as the dominant narrative in rape cases.
Her words came back to me this morning when I opened the papers and – with a sinking heart – read about the trial and acquittal of Ched Evans in Cardiff crown court. Following his initial conviction four years ago, footballer Evans (recently signed by my hometown team, Chesterfield FC) has been fighting to prove his innocence, supported by his partner’s millionaire parents, and succeeded in getting the case fast-tracked and brought back to a court of appeal. In the latest hearing, Evans’ lawyers drew on the testimony of two men who said they had slept with the complainant in the weeks before and after her alleged rape. Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act was introduced to try and prevent defendants in rape trials calling in their friends to testify to a woman’s promiscuity and combat the myth that promiscuous women are more likely to consent to sex. But the appeal court judges in Cardiff exploited an exception in this legislation. As The Guardian reports it:
“…For the past fortnight, the young woman, who has had to move house because of a social media campaign against her, has been subjected to the kind of criminal dissection of her morality and sexual behaviour campaigners hoped were long gone. Whether she said words to the effect of ‘fuck me harder’ during sex with two other men was a key part of the trial.”
All this despite the fact that the court also heard from two independent witnesses who testified that:
“….the girl was very drunk, had glazed eyes and was incoherent and stumbling on the night she encountered Evans. The law states that in order to give consent a woman, or a man for that matter, must have freedom and capacity to consent.”
Researching Medusa this autumn and looking for contemporary parallels with the myth, the problem hasn’t been finding material but knowing where to stop. Knowing how to finish reading. Knowing how to put it into words.