Aphra Benn play to help tackle rape and sexual violence

Rare 17th century female playwright’s attack on casual attitude to sexual violence is brought to the fore at Camden Fringe

A much-lauded work from a rare female 17th century playwright will highlight the plight of rape victims at this year’s Camden Fringe.

Aphra Benn was one of the first ever female professional writers and was said by Virginia Woolf to have been the woman who “afforded all women the right to speak their minds”. She was also a former spy for Charles II.

Her play The Rover highlights and condemns the casual attitude that was taken towards rape and sexual violence in the 17th century.

It will be staged by Pell Mell theatre company, in association with charities Rape Crisis and Slut Walk UK, to highlight the low conviction rate for rape suspects in the UK today.


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Artistic director Natalie York was surprised by how the themes of the play resonated in modern times.

“Only 24 per cent of cases nowadays lead to any kind of conviction or caution,” she said.

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“We feel we have to do something to help make a world which Aphra Benn would no longer recognise, where women are free to walk the streets in safety.”

To help promote the show and the campaign, performers took to the streets last week to show some of the scenes from the play in “flashmobs”, random street performances that took members of the public by surprise.

n The Rover will be at the New Diorama Theatre from August 7 to 25.

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