Blasted is unrelenting. My brain reels from reading it. I knew what to expect as I’d seen it in performance years ago, but it is impossible to prepare for – at least for me. I tried to imagine writing it and can see the dark spiral that leads to writing something as dark as this. Imagine the worst thing you can imagine and put it on a page. Now think what other terrible things it could lead to. The more shocking the act, the worse the follow up or reprisal.
It’s staggering to think of someone as young as Sarah Kane was writing a play like Blasted. She was only 24 when it premiered and it’s almost impossible to read it now without being influenced by her suicide.
What surprised me most reading it, was to find hope in the midst of the horror. I hadn’t seen it in production but it came through loud and clear on the page. Also humour.
Superficially, Blasted is about a racist, homophobic, misogynistic older man (Ian) bringing a young girl (Cate), who is prone to fits and stuttering, to an expensive hotel to seduce her. When she rejects him he rapes her. Outside the hotel, there is a war. A soldier breaks in, Cate escapes, and the soldier is at first tender with Ian before raping him and sucking out his eyes. And so it continues, with more grotesque horrors seen and described.
But if you see Blasted as being about more than the horrors on the page, then you can see the individual rape and abuse of one girl leading to the wholesale rape and murder of a population (if you can abuse one person then why not a community?). Kane wrote Blasted during the Bosnian war, when genocide and mass rapes were occurring. Reading the play with the war as a lens to filter the atrocities made it make so much more sense to me.
The fact that Cate is ridiculed, violated, raped and wounded and yet still has the capacity to care and to give is the most staggering thing about Blasted. And that’s where the hope comes in.
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.
CATE: Got to be something.
CATE: Don’t make sense otherwise.
IAN: Don’t be fucking stupid, doesn’t make sense anyway. No reason for there to be a God just because it would be better if there was.
Publisher: Methuen Drama
Cast: 2M, 1F