Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

Jane Doe

“I want to tell you a story.”

Karin McCracken begins this show by telling the story of Jane Doe: a girl who was raped at a party. Who is Jane Doe? “She could be fourteen, sixteen, twenty-two,” McCracken informs us. Jane Doe could be any young girl, in any part of the world.

Jane Doe, created by Eleanor Bishop, uses public records of high profile rape cases – as well as examples of media coverage surrounding such trials – to open up a candid, heart-wrenching discussion about consent, rape culture, and the way in which survivors are often treated.  Text messages (based on ones that served as evidence in court) flash up on the projector screen behind McCracken, and audience members are asked to read from court transcripts. Using their mobile phones, members of the audience are then asked to anonymously submit their thoughts. Are they feeling angry? Hopeless? Sad? Disgusted?

Jane Doe comes with a trigger warning. McCracken is quick to let people know that, should they need to step out of the room, they are perfectly welcome to do so. This is a show that cares a great deal about its audience. That’s why it’s addressing this particular subject: it cares. It wants positive change. It wants to know that we do, too.

On the projector screen at the back of the stage, several women talk about being objectified. They talk about whether or not they feel safe walking alone at night.

It feels like we have these conversations over and over again, and across a number of different platforms: in the press, on social media, in the living room with friends. With this in mind, it’s probably fair to say that Jane Doe isn’t massively revolutionary. But it doesn’t need to be. That the show is partly interactive in nature ensures a dialogue starts up. It’s a clever, heart-breaking participatory show that gets people thinking about why we need to keep having these conversations, and how we can ensure there’s accountability in future. The value and importance of Jane Doe is not to be underestimated.

Words: Morgan Laing

Jane Doe, Assembly George Square Studios, Aug 23-28, 3pm