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'Crave' by Sarah Kane
pend fringe@gateway, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Group: King Alfred's College Drama Studies Programme

Tim Markham

Sarah Kane's plays have always been more popular with student dramatic companies than critics, though Crave, her penultimate play, is generally considered her most mature. This production demonstrates some scope for depth and colour in staging Kane's work, but ultimately reveals that there is little left when the frenetic energy, deliberate disorientation and tricksy narrative devices are stripped away.

Crave presents four characters, or perhaps four aspects of human nature, all of which are singly, overwhelmingly traumatised by life. Fragments of speech reveal a litany of rape, infidelity, loneliness, familial rejection, romantic rejection and childlessness. Each character has a set response to what life has dealt them - anger, indignance, baffled argumentativeness and near hysteria, respectively - and this is maintained at a consistently high pitch throughout. There is no sense of development or dynamism in these emotions, and no bleeding of one into the other in the characters' stilted interactions.

The key is the play's insistence on what life 'does' to people. The characters are embittered, dismayed and often bewildered by an existence over which they have no control. The complete lack of communication between them reinforces the isolation to which they are all condemned, and when the issue of blame and responsibility finally rears its head it is in the supremely narcissistic form of righteous self-loathing.

The utter lack of agency is highlighted by the relentless repetition of phrases and the hamster-wheel depiction of characters enacting the same desperate movements over and over again. While this is the form on which Kane relies to emphasise futility, it certainly lends the play no weight. Similarly, glib religious references and facile wordplay serve only to evoke an impression of an adolescent angst which would not warrant such quick dismissal if it were anything other than emotionally and intellectual indulgent and palpably vacuous.

The cast on the whole tackle the performance with admirable confidence, and the rapid, choppy dialogue is executed with a precision that has clearly come out of careful preparation and rigorous rehearsal. One actor, however, combines a heavy Slavic accent with a persistently breaking, tortured delivery which often rendered her incomprehensible. Given that this is the character who repeatedly wails 'What have they done to me?' and says that she would commit suicide if she weren't already dead in life, perhaps this is no bad thing.

4 August to 23 August.

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