Thursday, April 5, 2007

British brutality rules!

It's almost 3 AM. I'm awake because earlier this evening I drank too much Darjeeling tea. Before trying to go to sleep, Ian and I watched the first episode of the BBC mini-series, Elizabeth R from 1971, starring a radiant Glenda Jackson, fresh-off-of-Ken Russell's-1969-masterpiece, Women in Love. Yay! Now that we've finished the I, Claudius series it'll definitely be my new fav.

So, it's appropriate that I'm sitting down to discuss British playwright, Sarah Kane's first play, Blasted. OK wow. Bloody Hell! I mean, literally it depicts a bloody hell... and I loved it.

Kane is what's known currently as a "Brutalist" playwright. She's part of a new school of British writers that grew up during Thatcher's reign of terror in the 1980s. Nihilistic and spare, it knocks your teeth right out from the first line. Normally I'm pretty squeamish about rape, war, semen, and things viscerally disturbing and scary. I could never watch this if it were a movie. I'm all about lace, roses, and pretty 1920s clothes when it comes to visuals, but somehow I'm drawn to sparse, violent literature. Kane reminds me of the grim, postmodern, bitchy authoress, Mary Gaitskill or of some short stories collected in the High Risk series.

Written in 1995, when Kane was a young, severely depressed 24 year-old, Blasted depicts a "theater of catastrophe." A dying, racist, 45 year-old asshole journalist rapes and generally abuses a young woman. Mid-way through the piece a soldier breaks into the hotel room they're staying in, an explosion occurs, and things degenerate into a complete war-zone. More rape, blood, guts, masturbation, icky food, and dead babies abound until you think you just can't take it any more. The play ends on a desperate, subtle note. Kane offers a tiny touch of human kindness and it's done.

Not to sound like a cliche, but in a time of war, this kind of art is especially effective. Kane has likened an individual act of brutality, one rape, to war as a whole and it really works. She committed suicide in 1999 at 28.

Now I can go to sleep... maybe.