When I saw Sarah Kane’s Blasted in production years ago, I felt so sickened and distraught that I actively stayed away from her work, instead of realising that a writer who can provoke such intense reactions is someone whom I should be reading.
I’m glad the first play of Kane’s I’ve read is Crave. It’s a much gentler experience for someone who’s prone to nightmares and being haunted by works on the page and stage. It’s still deeply disturbing but also filled with beauty and humour.
Crave has four characters, each referred to by a letter of the alphabet rather than a name. There are no stage directions and no descriptions of the characters so, when you start reading, you’re reading blind. Trying to work out who these people might be, whether they’re male or female, old or young, disembodied voices or actual characters.
The text is sparse and written predominantly in short bursts, just a few words from each character, sometimes responding to what’s said before but often talking at cross purposes or in overlapping dialogue.
I need to read Crave again to try to solve some of the puzzles. There were times when I was thought I’d sorted the relationships and that there were relationships, and others when I thought that they could all be aspects of the one person or voices in one head.
This, for what it’s worth, is what I took from my first reading.
C is a young woman, anorexic, desperate for her mother and hating her at the same time. Feeling orphaned. She’s damaged and was probably raped and abused from a very young age (six by my reckoning).
C: No one can hate me more than I hate myself.
M is another woman, older than C and childless but needing a child. She is cynical and witty but afraid of growing old and dying alone.
M: There’s something very unflattering about being desired when the other person is so drunk they can’t see.
B is a man, younger than M and wanting her, but not wanting to be used just for his seed.
B: If you died it would be like my bones had been removed. No one would know why, but I would collapse.
A states early in the play that he’s not a rapist, he’s a paedophile, which made me think he was C’s abuser, but then he gives the most gorgeous monologue about love and need. He’s the only character given this luxury of expression and explanation and it made me doubt all my assumptions about him. And yet …
A: And I am shaking, sobbing with the memory of her, when she loved me, before I was her torturer, before there was no room in me for her, before we misunderstood, in fact the very first moment I saw her, her eyes smiling and full of the sun, and I shudder with grief for that moment which I’ve been hurtling away from ever since.
For a play with so much desperation, craving and hurting, Crave is also filled with the most beautiful images and with wit, knife sharp and cutting. Knowing that Sarah Kane committed suicide just a year after Crave was first produced makes the lines about death all the more ferocious.
M: Why do you drink so much?
B: The fags aren’t killing me fast enough.
I’d love to see Crave on stage and see what choices and interpretations a director and cast bring to it. I’m sure that it differs wildly between productions.
Publisher: Methuen Drama
Cast: 2F, 2M