Sat together by chance, four unnamed strangers unearth their darkest moments. In this post-truth world, Kane’s brutal and unadulterated tragedy is defiantly honest. One of Sarah Kane’s final works, CRAVE returns to the festival where it premiered in 1998. Brought to you by a creative team previously described as “visionary” and behind many “must-see” productions in Cambridge (Varsity; TCS), this retelling of Sarah Kane’s masterpiece is unmissable.
“I’m looking for a time and place free of things that crawl, fly or sting”
Upon first reading, Sarah Kane’s Craveis powerfully overwhelming. Any sense of plot, narrative, clear-cut characterisation is difficult to interpret and in the traditional sense of what a play should be, it is nigh on impenetrable. As a confessional piece of text however, as an all-encompassing flow of truthful and painful language, it is an almost spiritual experience.
In the play there are only four speakers (I hesitate to use the word ‘characters’ because their identity is, at times, extremely fluid) labelled C, M, B and A. Their lines feed into each other like verse (Kane sometimes punctuates dialogue across speakers like a poem, each line ending in a comma: sharing her poetry across different speakers like a musical klangfarbenmelodie). Reading the play then, in which only the reader’s singular voice is complicit in giving life to these four speakers, the shared poetry has a cohesive constant. On stage however, when we physically see four different bodies, the experience and outcome is very different. With this transformation from page to stage, and the implication of four bodies, four minds, four consciences these speakers suddenly, in front of a sitting and paying audience, turn into performed and perceived characters.
Sarah Kane’s play then is one that, almost too perfectly, exhibits the power and uniqueness of theatre. The experience received on stage is very different to the experience received on page. With a new life breathed into the four speakers, we can then ask: do they have an identity? Can a narrative be gathered from Kane’s seemingly impenetrable words? Perhaps there is no definite answer, but we have certainly spent much time piecing together this beautiful jigsaw puzzle. The process is intense and challenging but maybe, just maybe, through the medium of drama we can begin to excavate and give voice to the suffering minds hidden beneath the appearance of read-only literature…