Rape Culture in Universities

“It’s a culture that begins with a joke, a gesture, a throwaway word or a game between friends, and it ends in an act of violence.”

Justine Mitchell as Jo Mulligan. (photo: Ali Wright)

In Alma Mater Justine Mitchell as Jo Mulligan has clawed her way up in academia to be the first female college Master in the history of this Oxbridge/Durham type college.  She was in the first intake of women to this college two decades before. 

Her first issue in this play is to be faced with male third year students given the names of freshers in order to prepare a welcome packfrom the Students’ Union.  Instead these men have googled the girls’ names, looked at their photos and ranked them as “Hot or Not” in terms of sexual attractiveness and claimed their first pick. When one of them is raped, the perpetrator apologises for breaking a male code, to the student whose first pick she was .

This is reported to the Master by a female third year student, Nikki Stewart, played by the remarkable Phoebe Campbell.  However, the girl who was raped, Paige Hutson (Liv Hill) is reluctant to report him or to be interviewed by the Master.  This means Nikki has to take the case forward.

Phoebe Campbell as Nikki (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Jo Mulligan recalls her first term at this college when a sexually offensive letter was put under the accommodation door of every new female student. They were the first female intake at a previously all male college.  This letter started, “Dear Cunts”. She read her response, “Dear Pricks”, followed by several other derogatory descriptives for the male genitalia.  The first theme for the current Freshers’ Party chosen by the students is costume. “What Were You Wearing When the Police Raided the Brothel?”

The journey in the play is that of a successful woman who has battled the hierarchy now having to act on behalf of the establishment.  Having taken over at very short notice from Lia Williams who was injured, Justine Mitchell plays with her script in hand but it looks realistic as we know university lecturers are often looking at essays or meeting agendas.

Nathaniel Parker is Professor Michael Danfield and Chair of the College Board and his scientist wife Leila Bahrami (Nathalie Armin) is called upon to mediate between Nikki and the Master.  Leila has no mediation training and I didn’t find this credible although Leila does quite well.

Phoebe Campbell as Nikki and Liam Lay Fernandez as Ghazali (Gerald) Amir (Photo: Marc Brenner)

When all is spilled on Social Media, into the mix comes the mother of the alleged rapist Tamara Beade (Susannah Wise) with the agenda of restoring her son’s reputation.  The Social Media conversation has an impact on the victim Paige who finds herself talked about but not talked to.  Sexual Assault and Rape are reported over the decades at the college and at universities nationwide.

There are some excellent discussion points on rape culture in Alma Mater but also odd events like Nikki digging up a tree to replant it elsewhere, planted in memory of an unsolved rape and murder of a student which took place adjoining the college in 1986.  Still there is much to engage in Kendall Feaver’s script and Polly Findlay’s production which make it well worth seeing and you don’t have long because of the cancelled performances.

Justine Mitchell as Jo Mulligan and Phoebe Campbell as Nikki. (Photo: Ali Wright)

Production Notes

Alma Mater

Written by Kendall Feaver

Directed by Polly Findlay



Justine Mitchell

Liv Hill

Nathalie Armin

Nathaniel Parker

Susannah Wise

Phoebe Campbell

Liam Lau-Fernandez


Director: Polly Findlay

Set Designer: Vicki Mortimer

Costume designer:
Fay Fullerton
Sound Designer: 
Ian Dickinson

Movement Director:

Shelley Maxwell

Lighting Designer:

Jessica Hung Han Yun

Composer: Alev Lenz

Musical Director:  

Toby Higgins


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Booking to 20th July 2024


Almeida Theatre 

Almeida Street

London N1 1TA

Phone: 020 7359 4404

Website: almeida.co.uk

Tube: The Angel

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge 

at the Almeida

at the evening performance 

on 6th July 2024