Malthouse Theatre is about to explode with Sarah Kane’s provocative and brutal, Blasted, a play that, when it first opened in 1995, shook the world.
Kane, dead at 28, was one of the finest British playwrights of the last 50 years after having written only 5 plays. Received by critics as filth and ‘a travesty of a play’, her work continues to resonate and is as relevant now as when it was written.
Kane enters the world of brutal male violence with no filter, no excuses and taking no prisoners. She is firing on all cylinders and makes no apologies for her work, her vision, or her tale.
For director Anne Louise Sarks (The Testament of Mary), Kane is an inspired visionary who wrote with force and power outside of her time.
“The thing that really strikes me when I read Blasted, is that Sarah Kane is having a conversation about masculinity and about violence— violence in domestic relationships—and how that violence is the seed of what is happening to us globally, in the wars and conflicts that surround us,” says Sarks. “To make that connection I think is inspired, to see those things as coming from the same place. I still don’t think that these are two things that we as a society connect, I don’t think we’re able to have that conversation yet.
This story is incredibly relevant to us. Even in the last few months our newspapers have been full of stories of women who have been killed by men who were partners or ex-partners. The numbers in Australia are about one woman a week is killed by a partner or ex-partner. There’s clearly something more for us to understand about the way power and sex and violence is used, mostly by men, against women.
What Sarah Kane is asking us to do in Blasted is inspired, she’s not just telling us that these things exist—she’s asking us to feel what that is, and to experience it. That’s what the theatre can do that nothing else does.”
Blasted is described as one of the most notorious plays of the last century. Paradoxically, it instilled ire and inspired vitriol from newspaper critics of the day but was also a winner of one of the most prestigious theatrical awards that a playwright might be honoured with.
Says Sark: “There was so much shock and rage at what Sarah tried to put on stage, but none of Blasted is new, or invented. Every one of these horrible moments has come from a real-life story. Sarah Kane was a brave and radical artist who was well before her time.
Even the scandal around that first production is old news – it’s half the story. The play won Olivier Awards – the most prestigious award in London. People seem more interested in the scandal and the drama than the art. That’s actually something Kane’s dealing with inside the play, in her critique of Tabloid media. There’s a grand history of women’s work being shamed or slammed or undervalued before it’s finally understood. It’s still happening today.”
Kane’s work is theatrical and visceral. Her incredibility young and damaged mind lead her to deep, dark recesses that are oft off limits to the more polite or perhaps the less damaged. There is no doubt that Blasted is not for the faint-hearted – it is a tale of rape, torture, cannibalism and murder – images will haunt and some would argue that Kane touches humanity where it is the most depraved – or the most vulnerable. But, as shocking and terrifying as it becomes when humanity is pared back to reveal both its good and its bad – oft living in the same cell – Kane’s Blasted is ultimately about ‘fragility, survival and hope.’
Sark promises fans of Kane and Blasted will see ‘a deep sensitivity and a raw humanity and extraordinary performances’ from the Malthouse work. In making this work Sark is trying to articulate the way that she sees the violence through a female perspective. “There’s a sensitivity in Kane’s voice that feels really important. And an empathy. And that’s obviously not only a female quality, but there is a level of nuance that feels intrinsic to the female gaze,” she says.
Blasted is a memorable work that will leave you spellbound. In the words of Sark: “Come to the theatre to see something you’ve never seen before, to feel something new!”
August 24 – September 16
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