Actors + Sex: How to Handle Consent | 2 October 2019

... For producers and directors, the decision to employ an intimacy coordinator is one that needs some thought. On the one hand, there's a valid concern that the creative process could be stymied. On the other, creating a reassuring space for great creative work to flourish is vital.

Suzy Whitefield produced and starred in The Censor at The Hope Theatre in London. The play, by Anthony Neilson, is about a female pornographer who comes face to face with a censor, and features a scene where she defecates on the floor to titillate him, and also encourages him to touch her sexually. She worked with Intimacy on Set coordinator Kate Lush to develop a secure and safe working environment.

"It was important to practice consent," Whitefield explains to Backstage. "Consent of touch, and coordinating the moments in line with that consent."

How does it work?
"Every move is rehearsed and coordinated. At the beginning of the show we had an intimacy call. Before every single show we'd agree the touch, and we can adapt and change as needed and agreed. This may, depending on the scenario, mean being more or less intimate than previously agreed."

It's not just about bare consent though. Whitefield says: "It's also about storytelling. It's about looking at the purpose of these movements. Why are the movements there? What do they say about the characters? And how is this level of intimacy moving the story forward?"

The way Whitefield worked with the intimacy coordinator was by breaking each intimate moment into beats. "We explored the direction and narrative for our characters. We explored what really made these moments come alive: the quality of touch, and how this develops into a journey through the movement for the characters. Working in this way means the moments are a key part in the storytelling and really reveal something about the characters and their relationships."

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