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Sarah Kane’s Cleansed & Phaedra’s Love Revived

By • West End
Nearly six years after her premature death, the work of controversial playwright Sarah Kane (pictured) is being reclaimed with two major London productions next month.

Oxford Stage Company is presenting Kane’s Cleansed at north London’s Arcola Theatre for a limited season from 2 November to 3 December 2005, the final production under the regime of outgoing artistic director Dominic Dromgoole before he succeeds Mark Rylance at Shakespeare’s Globe (See News, 20 May 2005). In the 1998 play, Tinker inflicts horrific experiments on the inhabitants of an institution, keen to test the limits of their love for each other. The cast are Sean Gallagher, Toby Dantzic, Craig Gazey, Polly Frame, Lisa Diveney, Paul Brennan and Garry Collins. Sean Holmes (The Price, Translations) directs.

Kane’s 1996 play Phaedra's Love, a radical retelling of Seneca’s tragedy about incest and destruction, is presented as part of the Young Vic’s Young Genius season. It’s directed by Anne Tipton and co-produced by Bristol Old Vic, where it runs from 20 October to 5 November before transferring to the Barbican from 16 to 19 November 2005 (See News, 17 Jun 2005).

Kane rose to prominence in 1995 when, aged 23, her first play, Blasted, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, where it kickstarted the decade’s ‘in-yer-face’ dramatic movement, which also spawned controversial works by Mark Ravenhill, Anthony Neilson, Martin McDonagh and others. Blasted disgusted most critics with its portrayal of cannibalism and male and female rape. Despite the critical mauling, Kane went on to write Phaedra's Love, Cleansed and Crave, which also tackled disturbing themes through a mixture of poetic intensity and shocking imagery. With Crave, originally published under a pseudonym, critics at last began to re-evaluate Kane’s talent.

However, the piece took its toll on Kane, a long-time depression sufferer. She checked herself in to hospital but recovery was short-lived. In January 1999, shortly after completing 4.48 Psychosis (the title refers to the time of the morning when suicides are most likely), Kane tried to kill herself with an overdose of anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Her flatmate found her and rushed her to hospital. Two days later, on 20 February 1999, when left alone for 90 minutes, she successfully hanged herself to death (See News, 23 Feb 1999). She was 28.

4.48 Psychosis was posthumously produced in June 2000 at the Royal Court where, a year later, a retrospective season of Kane’s work was almost unanimously acclaimed.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock


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