Review: Crave, Sarah Kane

Antonia Charlesworth attends the first performance of Sarah Kane's Crave since 2001 at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

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Not performed since 2001, and then directed by Sarah Kane’s literary manager and former lover, Crave is taken on in 2012 by the Actors Touring Company and directed by Ramin Gray.

Sarah Kane burst upon the theatrical stage aged 23 with her play Blasted and at aged 28 left with as dramatic an exit as her entrance. By the time she put on Crave at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 1998, she was working under a pseudonym – her earlier, more graphic, work having gained her a notorious reputation.

With little narrative structure and no stage direction, producing Crave is a huge challenge for the ATC and one executed with modesty and regard for the late playwright. The 45-minute play was performed without interval, only adding to the intensity of a script, that for the most part, would be better placed in poetry.

Heavily influenced by T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland, Crave is in essence four voices describing regrets, desires and hopes. The characters, intended to be sexless by Kane, were quite clearly identifiable as two men and two women, dressed in a way that reflected their private admissions.

Crave may have seen Kane tone down the graphic scenes depicted in plays such as Blasted and Cleansed, but the imagery conjured in the four characters bare delivery is equally disturbing. But just as you feel yourself slipping beyond your acceptable realm of thought and pulling away from the performance, the actors draw you back in with a romantic monologue about the nuances of love or deliver a, granted darkly, funny line about being alarmed by the shape of their own head.

19 April, The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

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