Review: Endless Second, Pleasance Theatre

The media has almost always portrayed rape as a back-and-forth tennis match of he said-she said. Coverage focuses on the individual’s background and credibility, and not on the complex emotional trauma rape leaves behind. 

Written by Theo Toksvig-Stewart, Endless Second aims to fill in the blurred spaces between the front pages. The play explores rape within a relationship, and how two people deal with the cracks appearing in the foundations of their love.

W (Madeleine Gray) and M (Toksvig-Stewart) meet as scene partners on the first day of their drama degree. Their awkward first flirtations soon develop into a passionate young love story; they meet each other’s families, go on holidays together, support each other and, most importantly, listen.

Then, one evening filled with shots and the delight of letting go of the stress of university changes everything. W says “no”, but M doesn’t stop. 

At first, the premise sounds stereotypical. A drunken night, she says no, he doesn’t believe that what happened was rape. What makes Toksvig-Stewart’s play different is that Endless Second only briefly touches on the act of the rape. More important by far is the conversation surrounding it, the shame and confusion, the need for responsibility to be taken.

Gray and Toksvig-Stewart work well as a pair, playing through the giddiness of new love and the unfamiliar feeling of nervousness upon waking up next to each other. We see their relationship developing and the change that that one night brings. 

Toksvig-Stewart’s script is a conversation; both sides get their moment at the microphone. At times, one side’s experiences are told by the other person, showing how intertwined their relationship is. Actions are used sparingly which helps give them a greater impact within the story.

Director Camilla Gürtler adds a certain fluidity and drama to the wordier parts of the play, which still, at times, moves along like chapters of a book. Each new scene bringing with it the effort of turning a page rather than the play driving itself forward.

The set consists of two microphones attached to speakers which sometimes function as a bench. During the play, the microphones become less part of the stage and more an extension of the characters, with W turning the mic away from M to silence him and trying to free herself from the cables of panic which wind around her. 

Endless Second is a play which begs for an intimate setting like the Pleasance Theatre, and for an audience that sits on the sidelines and understands their responsibility to listen. It’s a mixture of stereotypes and moments we perhaps don’t expect to be brought to the discussion. Above all, it is part of a conversation which is – and sadly might always be – endless.

Endless Second played at the Pleasance Theatre until 7 November. For more information, visit the Pleasance Theatre website.