Skip to content

Crave: Barbican Pit Theatre

May 16, 2018


(seen at the evening performance on 10th May 2018).

Competing a “double” with “4.48 Psychosis” last week, this leaves just one Kane play (“Phaedra’s Love”) for me to see, now.

Once again, we are in experimental territory, as Julie Cunningham and Joyce Henderson fuse drama and movement to present the most difficult of all Sarah Kane’s plays in a new form.

Four characters, A, B, C and M are each represented by a dancer and an actor – one moving to the rhythm of, the other speaking, the text. Nell Catchpole’s sound composition, a collection of sound effects, plays over it at times, the bare studio with just two chairs, a few lines on the floor and an open door given harsh angular light by Johanne Jensen.

Simple work / dance clothes dyed from white through grey to blue provide the only other colour, designer Alexa Pollman working with Julie Cunningham on them. At a post-show discussion, Cunningham admitted they were chosen for the mood more than anything, and it proved a shrewd decision against the background.

The end result is something of a treat for Kane and contemporary dance fans alike. It isn’t perfect by any means, but as a way of presenting what is basically a poem for 4 voices, it is original and solves quite a few of the inherent difficulties with quiet intuitive intelligence.

Henderson, in post-show discussion, admitted that the initial idea of linking individual dancers and actors went on the first page, third line. Monotonous and indeed undermining the objective of fusing text and movement, the chosen solution was to allow for inter-relation. Thus, if actor A is speaking, the link is made to how that affects dancer B, and so on. For the audience, it means some striking “mirror” moments, and has the desired effect of amplifying the meaning of a harsh word or callous rejection.

Growing from the first entrance of the audience, with the actors stretched out on the stage, occasionally stretching as if waking or even simply evolving, there’s some impressive staged set pieces. One seduction sequence on a chair sees two dancers share bodyweight even while moving horizontally at a distance apart.

A deeply moving moment representing a child being raped by her grandfather in the front seat of a car, while her father encourages from the back seat is deeply affecting, the simplicity of two cast members side-by-side radiating not just hurt but the sheer confusion, shame and injustice accompanying it.

Strong too are the therapy sequences, the cast encircling a speaker, wordless reaction as effective as spoken. work in a whole new way. Contrasting in the difficult times with a regression to foetal states only to grow again is another exciting motif.

It’s quite possible that anyone who sees this version will struggle now with a more static production. Sure, it is possible that without writhing bodies there may be more attention paid to words alone, but this is far more – not just an aural representation of the writer’s cerebral state, but a physical one as well.

Hopefully, this will be revived, but for those lucky enough to have snagged a ticket, it has to rank as high as any presentation of Kane’s work to date.


4 stars.



Photo credit: Chris Nash. Used by kind permission of the Barbican Press Office.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: