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What on earth is When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other?

Yes, we know it's the new Cate Blanchett play, but what actually is it?

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other
© Gillian Hyland

One thing is for certain: Cate Blanchett is starring in a play at the National this year. But with its long title, reports of people fainting in the stalls and its balloted ticket buying process, we realise things may have got a little confusing. Here's a few notes to try to clear it all up.

So Cate Blanchett is starring in a play in London. Great! What's it called again?
Well, people have been calling it When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other. But that's the short version. We kid you not. The long version is When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other: Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson's Pamela. But to make life easy, let's go for That Cate Blanchett Play.

Errr, no, I am going to be loyal to the playwright and always use the full title. Who is the playwright, btw?
The man who came up with that sufficiently torturous play title, sorry, we mean play title, is none other than Martin Crimp. He is one of our best and brightest playwrights around. Some have called his plays emotionally detached, some have called them cruel. He's been writing for around 37 years and his work has appeared at theatres such as the Almeida, the Royal Court, the Orange Tree and the Young Vic.

It sounds like it's going to be a serious bit of drama then?
Well, we've not actually seen it yet (it opens 23 Jan), but going by his other works and the rumours currently surrounding the show, it probably won't be a laugh a minute, no.

And does Cate Blanchett play Pamela?

Does she play Pamela?
Oh, sorry, the second part of the title. Pamela is Samuel Richardson's novel which Crimp is using as a provocation, which means it's probably unlikely that Blanchett is playing a character called Pamela, but there's no cast list anywhere, so who really knows the answer to that question. What we do know is that there are six characters who 'act out a dangerous game of sexual domination and resistance'.

Yikes. Bit dark then was it, Pamela?
It's full name is Pamela; or Virtue Revealed and it was first published in 1740. It tells of a 15 year-old maid called Pamela who is the subject of unwanted advances from her master, who tries to seduce and rape her several times, unsuccessfully. He then proposes marriage, which she accepts. It is a tale of sexual and social power that is, certainly watching from today's world, difficult to stomach.

Who'd have thought it would be so relevant over two hundred years later?

And what's all this about fainting?
There were reports from various sources last week that an audience member fainted in one of the show's previews. Whether the person fainting had anything to do with the actual content of the play has not been proven. But people who have seen it say it is "sexually explicit and incredibly violent". There may be orgies and sex toys involved too.

Blimey. It sounds... daring. Who's directing?
Katie Mitchell has worked many times with Martin Crimp and she is brilliant. She uses film as well as live action in many of her works and has staged plays including Wastwater, Waves, Written on Skin and Cleansed – a revival of Sarah Kane's work which was also at the National Theatre. Oh, and she's also teaming up again with another brilliant actor Stephen Dillane, who she has collaborated with before. The whole cast, in fact, look exciting – Babirye Bukilwa, Jessica Gunning, Emma Hindle and Craig Miller.

Great! How can I get a ticket?
You can't. It was so popular that the NT had to release tickets in the form of a ballot, which you needed to have signed up for last year and so it has all sold out.

Do not despair. There are a limited number of cheap day tickets available in person from the box office at the National Theatre, when it opens at 9.30am. Tickets are limited to two per customer and if you have already bought tickets, you can't buy more day tickets.

9.30am is not too early...
Be careful, as the aforementioned points spell out, this is likely to be popular, so while we are not advocating turning up hours before then, you should definitely expect a queue.