In 1995, Sarah Kane's debut play Blasted left many critics aghast. Since the author's suicide in 1999, the work has undergone a critical about-face and is now held in high regard. Seventeen years on, from the controversial opening in London's Royal Court Theatre, the State Theatre Company of South Australia reveals that Kane's twisted vision is as disturbing and significant as ever.
Under Netta Yaschin's tight direction, the depiction of rape, torture, masturbation, cannibalism and a bomb explosion that tears the set apart are wonderfully realised and utterly disconcerting. It's definitely a grim, bloody and juicy narrative that's guaranteed to keep the audience interested. Yet this production doesn't quite have the shock and awe value of the original. Although it doesn't reach the levels of notoriety it strains for, it's too well produced and powerfully acted to set aside.
Indeed, the production is elevated by the strength of an assured performance from Patrick Graham as the gun-toting, gin-swigging, chain-smoking, bigoted journalist Ian. With solid performances from Anni Lindner (Cate) and Mark Saturno (Soldier), notable lighting from Mark Pennington and Yaschin's direction, there are the makings of an instant classic. What one gets is an ambitious attempt.
On the evidence of this performance, Blasted tends to be overly praised, but it's definitely worth seeing. Naturally, it's gross, it's unashamedly idiosyncratic, but it is also an ode to love concealed in the horrors of domestic abuse and the appalling violence of war. Yes, physical and mental abuse perpetuates throughout the 100 minutes of stage time and it attacks our very notion of civilisation. The result is neither pretty nor in the least sweet: it's an animalistic, blood-smeared cry of a tortured soul.
The action takes place within a single hotel room in Leeds where Ian rapes Cate while she is having an epileptic fit. In turn, Ian is raped by another invader. This is a dark tale played out in a brilliantly designed (by Wendy Todd) and almost surreal world of a plot that combines horror, humour and intelligence.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
Written by Sarah Kane
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: Until 13th October 2012