It is standing room only for the revival of Sarah Kane’s penultimate one-act play in the studio at The Royal Exchange Theatre. The notorious playwright famed for her in-yer-face theatrical style had relinquished her penchant for extreme and violent stage action in favour of a calmer, less distracting backdrop albeit amidst an equally disturbing frenetic prose.
Crave features a dysfunctional line up of characters known only as the letters A, B, C and M as they compete to deliver their experiences of redemptive love, sexual desire, pain and torture in a world from which they cannot escape. Their monologues connect and collide in equal measure in a tyrannical staccato rhythm revealing a litany of rape, rejection, childlessness, depression and breakdown that is at times indomitable and exhausting to follow.
It would be easy to dismiss the harried energy of these two-dimensional characters were it not for the punctuation of poignant moments of reflection and the collective acknowledgement of their flaws as well as their cravings for a fulfilled existence.
The Olivier award-winning Actors Touring Company under the direction of Ramin Gray pride themselves on exploring experimental theatre through fresh approaches but this piece is devoid of narrative and the indulgence of self-loathing religious references and desperate repetition of narcissism is at times contrived ‘No-one can hate me more than I hate myself’. But the acting is impressive and confident and the cast of Derbhle Crotty, Jack Tarlton, Cazimir Liske and Rona Morison do not falter through their vacuous stance.
With the inclusion of such sweeping offerings as ‘Silence or violence. The choice is yours’ Sarah Kane seems to have opted for the former and — despite her own battle with severe depression and untimely suicide less than a year after the play was written — it is unlikely that Crave will achieve the dramatic impact for which it was intended.