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Crave (Sheffield Theatres)

Charlotte Gwinner's production of Sarah Kane's play is exquisitely paced

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
'Intense, tightly wired': Pearl Chanda as 'C'
© Mark Douet

The real strength of Charlotte Gwinner's production of Sarah Kane's Crave (being produced by Sheffield Theatres in conjunction with her accompanying production of Kane's 4.48 Psychosis) is its exquisite pace.

Four voices speak, sometimes to each other, sometimes to us, but always with an urgency that is impossible to ignore. As they talk of love and hate, obsession and rejection, abuse suffered and abuse perpetrated, themes emerge and snatches of character and story are revealed, but in Kane's characteristic style, the play resists assuming any sort of clear narrative or set of relationships.

The staging is simple: the four performers stand exposed in front of us, against a dull grey background, occasionally switching places in line. If anything, this movement is unnecessary, as Kane's language and the cast's delivery are all that is needed to maintain our rapt attention. Signe Beckmann's costume designs find exactly the right way to suggest, but not impose, character, and the actors do the rest.

The most engaging performer, here as in 4.48 Psychosis, is Pearl Chanda, who gives an intense, tightly wired portrayal of role 'C'. In her depiction, the character becomes a passionately angry and anguished young woman, in whom we might dare to see a little of Kane herself.

Also captivating is Christopher Fulford's interpretation of 'A'; his maturity lending a shifting sense of menace and vulnerability to the role, which perfectly captures the constant ambiguity of Kane's text. One of the production's most memorable moments is his breath-taking monologue, which outlines the ambitions of his increasingly frightening love.

Rakie Ayola creates an aloof, confident 'M'; a role she seems surer of than the one she takes in 4.48 Psychosis. Tom Mothersdale's characterisation of ‘B' is not dissimilar to the part he creates for himself in 4.48, an approach that sits more comfortably in this play.

Contributing to the stripped-back presentational style of the play, Hartley T A Kemp's lighting and Christopher Shutt's sound are minimal, yet effective, culminating in a particularly effective climax to the piece.

Crave is running at Sheffield Theatres Studio in repertory with 4.48 Psychosis until 21 March 2015