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October 23, 2010

My friend Emily (of got free tickets for Sarah Kane’s play Blasted at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith so I went with her on Friday (22nd October).

Blasted was a good word to describe how I felt at the end of the play which featured a dysfunctional relationship between an alcoholic tabloid journalist and a teenage girl – wanking featured as did (mercifully off stage) vaginal and anal rape. Half way through the flimsy hotel room set was ripped apart by an explosion and the last half of the play took place in its ruins, in a post apocalypse hell that was darker than ever Becket imagined though some scenes were clearly influenced by his work.  The second part of the play showed a fairly graphic male rape with both penis and gun, and the description of various war time atrocities that I won’t detail here. You’ll already have got the picture. The audience thinned rapidly as the evening progressed.

Somehow though, I felt this wasn’t just horror for the sake of it.  Like Dante’s Inferno the play shows that hell has various levels.  It plumbs them relentlessly.  But at the very bottom it offers some hope of redemption as water drips into the darkness bringing with it a shaft of light that illuminates the head of the suffering protagonist (eyes put out in the terrible tradition of tragic heroes though he is a commoner and much more sordid man even than Arthur Miller’s anti-heroes never mind Lear or Oedipus). The young girl has sold herself for food and grudgingly, carelessly, innocently even, she feeds the blind man who has abused her.  The play ends with his cry of “Thank you.”It’s not really a relief. The two of them are still stuck in the darkness and the brutal soldier may or may not be dead but it is a small gesture towards the hope that the vital spark of human goodness may endure even in these times. For what end is another, and unanswered question.

Sarah Kane died in 1991 after a failed overdose.  She hanged herself in the bathroom of Kings College Hospital. She wrote that she was attracted to the stage because “theatre has no memory, which makes it the most existential of the arts…I keep coming back in the hope that someone in a darkened room somewhere will show me an image that burns itself into my mind.”[7]

You did, Sarah. You did.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kari Gardelin permalink
    October 23, 2010 8:26 pm

    I saw Thirst last year and was equally blown away and was massively impressed. But your post mainly reminded me about a play called the Glory of Living, which I saw in London in 1998. I was traumatised and it remains my strongest theatre experience to date.

  2. October 26, 2010 10:26 am

    Apparently Sarah Kane was a fan of Edward Bond’s work (might explain some of the references to Lear that you spotted!). She considered the rape camps of Bosnia to be the logical conclusion of the attitude that produces an isolated rape in England and, as you said, she wanted to show that even in the darkest of times a flicker of human kindness could still exist.

    I think there’s a production of 4:48 Psychosis showing in Cambridge in the near future …. 😉

    • October 26, 2010 11:40 am

      Am I strong enough for 4.48 Psychosis? Perhaps I could be tempted by promises of stiff drinks and a meeting with a certain bright young anthropologist?

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