Written by Sarah Kane, directed by Jenny Sealey
Graeae Theatre Company
Unity Theatre
5th - 6th April 2006

Reviewed by Helen Grey

‘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.

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