Blast Off

Off to the Hammersmith Lyric last Thursday to see the revived production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. I won’t go into too much detail on grounds of plot spoilers, but I would like to point to a few things which grabbed my attention…

Overall I thought it was a thoroughly gripping (entertaining is the wrong word) experience and I would recommend this production. The acting was excellent. Danny Webb was particularly believable as the grizzled, gin-soaked northern hack, consumed by drink, cigarettes, cynicism and a life of amoral behaviour (though all three cast members were very good).

It is a commonplace that this play is explicit, violent and (therefore) controversial. I didn’t see it the first time around – I think I was too young* – but I became aware of it while at university and had been hoping to see a good revived production for some time. The narrative arc describes an incrementally more violent path which begins in the sphere of personal relationships, and culminates in Brechtian post-civil war apocalypse. There are somewhat gauche allusions to Shakespeare and Beckett, and (less clumsily) to the aforementioned Brecht (and, perhaps, Pinter).

The play is far from flawless, and it does feel unpolished and a little earnest, but the universal themes are bravely and honestly handled; it is thought-provoking but not in that frequent shock-for-shock’s-sake manner. We got second row seats for only £15, which was arguably a bit close for the grimmest scenes, but did allow a full appreciation of the disturbing spectacle, from initial comical bathos to final empty oblivion.

*The vast number of schoolchildren at the performance suggested to me that Blasted has made its way onto the A-Level syllabus. If so, this represents a great leap forward in trusting teenagers to engage with such adult themes. However, groups of sixteen year olds at the theatre reacted as you might expect them too: with giggling at virtually every scene. While the first act is undoubtedly played for laughs – comical nudity included – the rest is increasingly brutal. After the first hints of real violence, only the final Beckettian scene provoked a wry chuckle from me, and that was more for the surreal stage setting than any of the action or dialogue. The nervous tittering throughout was actually rather offputting for me – I felt like the horror deserved more silence.

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Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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