Sickening, terrifying, unforgettable,
This review is from: Sarah Kane: Complete Plays (Methuen Contemporary Dramatists) (Paperback)
Sarah Kane is one of our finest modern love poets. Her plays, smoking with anger, despair and violence, explore the nature of romantic love, exposing its fascism. I don't like the term "tortured artist," but those who do might find no better example of it in recent years than Kane. A suicide at 28, her work, taken as a whole, is the ultimate portrait of the disturbed creative mind, beginning with order and ending in chaos.
With each play her narratives become more abstract, until we reach 4.48 Psychosis, which has no characters or stage directions, but is like a mad voice in the dark. She's an acquired taste. Her first three plays - Blasted, Phaedra's Love and Cleansed - are notorious for their graphic violence. Cannibalism, disembowelment, torture and rape haunt her early work, and may make it unpalatable for those without irony. Her characters range from sadistic monsters eventually redeemed by their suffering (Ian from Blasted) to those imprisoned by melancholia (Hippolytus from Phaedra's Love, and Kane herself, her voice underscoring each line of 4.48 Psychosis).
Her vision is tenderly savage. She sees through love, and has empathy for even her most vile creations, but is destroyed by hopelessness. Her insight is also her cross. Her world is a dark and barren place. It's useful to remember while reading or watching her plays that one can be happy as well, though sorrow will not be ignored. At the other end of all the pain and horror is a flickering redemption, waiting for those who seek it.