The controversial debut play by Sarah Kane
. An old journalist Ian
and a very young woman Cate
resume an entangled violent relationship in a hotel room in Leeds
. Suddenly a war is taking place and a soldier
bursts in and rapes Ian, eats his eyeball
s, and commits suicide. Cate rescues a baby
but it dies; she buries it; but starving blind Ian digs it up and eats it. Critic
s were appalled, but it is a very moving
and at times even funny
play, and established Kane's lasting reputation.
It premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London on 12 January 1995, starring Kate Ashfield, Pip Donaghy, and Dermot Kerrigan.
The above first paragraph was my E1 summary of the plot, and gives you an idea of why the critics all hated it. As Sarah Kane came up with more brilliant and ground-breaking plays, and of course after her suicide, they had to eat their words. Blasted was her first and is the most conventionally representational of her plays -- the only impossible thing is how suddenly Leeds turns into something like Bosnia -- compared to the later dream-like experiments, but is in no way an unformed or less polished work. Each of hers was unique, each reflects on the others.
There are great longueurs through it. They enter the hotel room, Ian goes off to run a bath, Cate looks around and bounces on the bed, but doesn't say anything until he comes back. Several times in the course of it she spins out these wonderful blank spaces in the action, slowing down the audience's expectation, getting you psyched up for concentration and repetition. I was gobsmacked when this started happening. I loved it. A completely different dimension of theatrical time: make 'em wait!
Ian taunts Cate for her brother being a spaz. He taunts her for her stutter, her uselessness and helplessness, and she is a simple loving creature who thinks well of people but gets confused and angry about this. She likes Ian, there is some sexual history between them from when she was too young, and now she's trying to stand on her own two feet, be friends, refuse the sexual. Between scenes he forces himself on her, there is blood, it's horrifying, but at the same time it seems normal for their debauched relationship.
Ian's swilling down the booze and the fags: his lungs and liver are going, and it's only a matter of a short time to see which will kill him first. He doesn't care. He boasts, though he's a reporter, of also being some kind of shadowy secret agent, a dispenser of death, a killer. But when the real thing arrives...
The third character is known only as The Soldier. He is some kind of undefined foreigner, a wop or wog, one of the scum Ian contemptuously dismisses perhaps, when they're merely hotel servants, or some outsider, some wrecked relic of foreign wars his readers don't care about. His stories are about tits and adultery and schoolgirls and vicars, not real people dying and being raped and having their lives destroyed. The Soldier brings home what that's like. The Soldier is horrible, vicious, vulgar, callous, sick, and blackly funny. No nobility here, no elevation, no redemption by suffering.
Cate It's wrong to kill yourself.
Ian No it's not.
Cate God wouldn't like it.
Ian There isn't one.
Cate How do you know?
Ian No God. No Father Christmas. No fairies. No Narnia. No fucking nothing.