Yes Yes Yes is an inclusive, socially conscious one-act play eighteen months in the making. Commissioned by Auckland Live, it is based on the creative team of Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken’s previous production Jane Doe, which examined rape culture and consent on university campuses. Yes Yes Yes is designed specifically for Year 12 and 13 students in New Zealand, and Zanetti Productions hope to continue to tour this show to schools in the future. The content is informed by consultation with Rape Prevention Education Auckland, and in-depth interviews with New Zealand teenagers, ensuring authenticity of voice and relevance.
Like Jane Doe, Yes Yes Yes opens with a non-performative introduction from Karin McCracken, the sole actor in the work. A snapshot of sexual content between two pairs of people and issues of consent are explored using a variety of conventions. Audience volunteers onstage reading from scripts, narration, rehearsed sections (with McCracken adeptly fulfilling dual roles), projection of video interviews with teenagers, and live anonymised text responses from the audience combine successfully to create pace and interest. The content is current, painstakingly gender-neutral, and highly accessible. Humour is skilfully wielded by McCracken to create a safe environment for the audience, and Yes Yes Yes certainly hits its target as a sex-positive play about consent that parents can feel secure bringing their teenagers to.
From the tone of the live audience text responses, the content can be confronting and challenging for many. I am surprised that people are shocked; Yes Yes Yes is very gentle, very considerate and extremely specific. It explores consent and sexual assault, but only in the context of two ‘couples’ who are the same age. The word ‘rape’ is never mentioned. Neither is contraception, safe sex, pleasure. The accessibility of porn and its current role in the self-directed sex education of children is only briefly touched on. There is the euphemism of “hooking up”, cake as an extended metaphor, and giggling teenagers talking about “having a crush”. Importantly, Yes Yes Yes does talk about the right and wrong things to say to a victim of sexual assault; McCracken speaks with authority here as she worked for Rape Crisis Wellington for a number of years.
Overlooking gendered violence in an effort to be inclusive and marketable to schools is both understandable and problematic. Recent police crime statistics show that from July 2014 – March 2019 97.1% of sexual assault offenders were men (police.govt.nz). The largest age group of offenders was young men aged 15 – 19 years. It is a balancing act indeed to consider harm-reduction vs. the full truth. Who are we seeking to protect with this approach?
The overarching message from Yes Yes Yes is as a society we need to “get better at this stuff”, and with that I wholeheartedly agree.