Written by Sarah Kane, directed by Jenny Sealey
Graeae Theatre Company
5th - 6th April 2006
‘Blasted’ by Sarah Kane is one of the most talked about plays
in recent history. During the first run of the performance in 1995, critics
labelled it as a ‘disgusting piece of filth’ and ‘a
work devoid of intellectual merit’. The strong views expressed came
in response to a play that contains scenes of graphic violence and abuse.
The play tells the story of Ian - a misogynistic and racist journalist
- and Cate - a young and vulnerable woman. Ian – who smokes like
a chimney and drinks gin by the litre - is dying and has asked Cate to
accompany him to an expensive hotel room in Leeds to help ease his pain.
Though the two characters have a shared past, they seem totally mismatched.
Ian is a vulgar and violent man, whose secrets have made him afraid of
every knock at the door, while Cate appears kind and intuitive, and tries
in vain to help Ian improve his health and mental state. The action is
interrupted when a bomb goes off in the hotel and marks the entrance of
a solider, who brings with him graphic stories of what he has seen and
done in war.
The play’s complexity deals with the violence of war and brings
it to the streets of Leeds. Sarah Kane herself said: “Acts of violence
simply happen in life, they don’t have a dramatic build-up and they
are horrible. That is how it is in the play.” This is certainly
true. There doesn’t seem to be any fluidity between the characters
or within the plot, as often the acts of violence don’t seem to
have any reason or justification. But as the war in Iraq and the events
of 9/11 have shown, violence is often senseless.
This production was unique as it was presented by Graeae Theatre Company,
whose vision is to produce “a diversity of plays written by disabled
and non-disabled writers to enable us to cover the broad spectrum of theatre
and the language of performance”. ‘Blasted’ proved to
be a perfect choice for a cast and audience of mixed ability as artistic
director Jenny Sealey explains: “In the play, in addition to the
dialogue, Kane has written character actions to function as lines. This
connects with Graeae’s commitment to accessible theatre; it feels
like a gift.”
If you are able to see past the graphic violence and extremely strong
language, ‘Blasted’ is a play that will make you think long
after the actors have taken their final bow. But rather than dismissing
Kane’s use of shock tactics as nothing more than a device to instil
a reaction, embrace it as part of modern society, albeit a part that many
would like to ignore.