Sunday, February 01, 2009
Bang & Clatter’s ‘BLASTED’ not for everyone!
Bang & Clatter, Cleveland’s Public Square Theatre, is noted for going outside the box in choosing their scripts. More often than not, their bold choices pay off by producing plays that other venues wouldn’t produce, and challenging audiences to think. Their latest choice, ‘BLASTED,” Sarah Kane’s antiwar/anti-life play is a case in point.
‘BLASTED’ was the first of the British author’s five plays. The initial performance was fiercely attacked by most newspaper critics, many of whom regarded it as a rather immature attempt to shock the audience.
(Note: I don’t normally give the step-by-step plot details in reviewing a play, but anyone planning on seeing this production needs to know exactly what they’re is in for. So…)
The play is set in an expensive hotel room in Leeds, England. Ian, a foul-mouthed middle-aged tabloid journalist has brought Cate, a young woman, to the room for the night. Cate is much younger than Ian, and emotionally fragile. They appear to have a past history together, but the playwright fails to fill in those details. Throughout Scene 1, Ian tries to seduce Cate, but she resists. The scene is populated by Ian’s statements about misogyny, racism and homophobia.
Scene 2 begins the next morning. Ian has raped Cate during the night. She goes to “take a shower,” and escapes out of the bathroom window. Unexpectedly, a soldier enters the hotel room. The hotel is struck by bomb. But, because the playwright fails to give us any idea of what war is being raged, and why, we are again at a loss.
In Scene 3, the hotel room is in ruins. The soldier and Ian begin to talk,. The soldier tells Ian about appalling atrocities that he has witnessed and taken part in, involving rape, torture and genocide, and says he has done everything as an act of revenge for the murder of his girlfriend. He then rapes Ian and sucks out his eyes. (Yes, that’s what happens. Would I make something like this up?) Why this happens I do not know as the motivation for those actions are not made clear.
In Scene 4, Ian lies blinded, next to the soldier who has committed suicide. Cate returns, describing the city being overrun by soldiers, and bringing with her a baby that she has rescued. However, the baby dies.
Scene 5 consists of a series of brief images, showing Ian crying and even hugging the dead soldier for comfort as he starves in the ruined room. Eventually, he crawls into the hole in the mattress in which the dead baby has been placed by Cate, and proceeds to eat it. Cate returns, bringing some food. Because her legs and vaginal area are covered with blood, we can only assume she has sold her body or has been raped. She eats and feeds the rest of her food to Ian, who says: "Thank you." Curtain!
After sitting through the 90-minute intermissionless play, I tend to agree with the London critics about the limited quality of the play. I’m not a prude, but the brutal show which contains masturbation, male sodomy, rape, urinating on stage and cannibalism was even a bit much for my sensibilities. And I left wondering what Kane was trying to share with me.
Sarah Kane committed suicide at age 28. I can only assume, based on ‘BLAST’ that she was a very troubled woman. As a counselor, I can possibly analyze that her play, from a psychological view point, was a cry for personal help from the demons who were at war within her mind.
Bang and Clatter’s production brings forth all the brutality of the script. It was well directed by Sean McConaha. Nick Koesters gives an amazing performance as the demonized Ian. This is an exhausting endeavor. Faye Hargate is nearly his equal as Cate. Allen Branstein is not quite as effective as the Soldier as he fails to clearly add the confused nature of the character. In the original script, to add to the emotional level of the play, the soldier is of color. Such casting would have heightened Nick’s horror from being raped by a member of a group he finds so abhorrent.
Capsule judgment: ‘BLASTED’ is an excruciating experience. For those who like their theatre raw, this is their thing. For the rest of us, maybe something a little less graphic with a more meaningful message, might be in order.