Playwright Sarah Kane, the enfant terrible of British theatre, has committed suicide just days after her 28th birthday. Kane - whose plays include Blasted, Cleansed and Crave - was reportedly found hanged in her London flat early on Saturday. News of her death emerged last night but, according to her family's wishes, details of the circumstances have been withheld.

Kane rose controversially to prominence in 1995 when, aged 23, the Royal Court Theatre staged her first play Blasted. The play disgusted many critics with its portrayal of cannibalism and male and female rape. Kane's predilection for violence continued to divide critics in subsequent plays - Phaedra's Love, which she also directed, at the Gate Theatre and, back at the Royal Court in 1998, Cleansed.

Her most recent and final work, Crave, received its world premiere at last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe and later received a London run back at the Royal Court. The play, in which four characters sit and talk in verse of obsessive love, was more enthusiastically received by critics who appreciated the lack of gore and believed it demonstrated Kane's maturity as a playwright.

But Kane was astounded that many considered Crave to be her most uplifting work. Speaking at the time of its premiere, she said, 'It is certainly the most painful and difficult play I've written. Some people seem to find release at the end of it, but I think it's only the release of death.' The play ends with a suicide.

Ian Rickson, artistic director of the Royal Court, commented last night: 'Sarah was a profound human being and a true poet of the theatre. All of us at the Royal Court are so proud to have been associated with her bright, brilliant career.'

Many friends report that Kane was prone to bouts of depression and, that in recent years, she had been hospitalised for treatment. Sarah Kane was born 3 February 1971 and died in London 19 February 1999.