Sarah Kane was just 28 when she committed suicide in 1999, but in a short life plagued by bouts of severe depression, she created a huge stir with her powerful and controversial writing. Blasted was the first of her five stage plays, and is still every bit as uncomfortable as the 1995 premiere which was greeted with a clutch of dismissive reviews, including one critic’s “a disgusting feast of filth” verdict.
For the seasoned theatregoer, the influences – including Becket, Brecht, Bond and the Bard – are clear. Kane has taken elements from their works (a character buried from the neck down, a terribly treated baby, eyes sucked from their sockets) and added anal rape and cannibalism to the disturbing mix. This is not a night for the faint hearted.
What begins as an unsettling rendezvous in a plush Leeds hotel room explodes into something far more global – a reaction to the atrocities then being carried out in Bosnia, but applicable to any war torn country. Ian (a sickly, sweaty middle-aged tabloid hack with a hacking cough, terminal cancer and openly racist opinions) meets young, stammering, epileptic Cate with whom he already has some sort of relationship. Sex is definitely on his mind, not (though her presence is voluntary) on hers.
Things get nasty, but the arrival of Aidan Kelly’s hungry, war-toughened soldier turns the tables. A bomb blast rips the room to shreds, catapulting them into the dark ruin of the city where only the merest flickers of humanity punctuate the violent brutality.
There’s nothing likeable about Kane’s apocalyptic vision – but Sean Holmes’ bleakly atmospheric revival (with Lydia Wilson childlike, resilient, violated Cate and Danny Webb’s deeply unpleasant Ian) – is one you’re unlikely to forget.
Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, W6 0QL
0871 221 1726
Until 20th November
– Louise Kingsley