When Sarah Kane’s first full-length play Blasted premiered in the small upstairs theatre at the Royal Court in 1995 it was greeted by shock and outrage by critics, catapulting its 23-year old author to unexpected and unwelcome tabloid notoriety. Blasted is certainly disturbing, as it features scenes of rape, suicide, blinding and cannibalism, as well as graphic descriptions of atrocities of war.
Kane wrote only four more plays in her short life, all of which are challenging in form and content, featuring extremes of sex and violence, love and cruelty, but also raw honesty, and even glimmers of hope and beauty. In the little more than two decades since she took her own life in 1999 at the age of 28, Kane’s reputation has been defined partly in terms of the myth of the tortured artist, in the mold of Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain, but her work has also found a singular place in the critical canon, distinctive and influential for its innovative form and its brutal vision.
I am joined in this epsiode by someone who is very well qualified to guide us through the blasted landscape of Sarah Kane’s play. Graham Saunders is the author of Love me or Kill me: Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes published by Manchester University Press, as well as About Kane: the Playwright and the Work published by Faber, and the editor of Sarah Kane in Context also from Manchester University Press.
Warning: this play and therefore this episode are not for the faint-hearted. Our conversation about the play contains language and scenes that may be disturbing.