Sarah Kane’s Blasted is one hell of a play.
I first read Blasted in a British theater class two years ago. After everyone gets over their horror and shock, the first question usually asked is: How in the world do you stage this? Other than its multiple graphic rape scenes (usually involving a gun pointed at or into a person’s body part), there onstage defecation, onstage urination, onstage cannibalism, and onstage eye-gouging. And eye-eating. Did I mention it all happens onstage onstage?
So I guess me actually being excited to watch a new production of this play isn’t terribly masochistic, right? Cryptic Fascinations Theater Company (what other name would you expect?) does a pretty good job of it too. The play opens with two Brits, Ian (Jason De Beer) and Kate (Marie Botha), entering a lush hotel room. Why they’re there and what their exact relationship is to each other is unclear. I assume they’re on something of a weekend getaway, but neither seems to have a good handle on where they are or why they’re there. Kate appears much younger than Ian (this production makes her look like a schoolgirl although I tend to think of her as a bit more mature) and she’s far more bright-eyed and naive than Ian, who chain-smokes although he’s already lost a lung, drinks with the intent to make his kidneys fail, and keeps peeking out the window and pulling out his gun at any old room service door knock. We thinks he’s law enforcement but really, he’s a domestic affairs journalist. Same difference.
Ian forces multiple sexual acts on Kate and things get violent pretty quickly. But not as violent as they’re about to get when a soldier (Logan George) barges into the room and the hotel room transforms into a war zone. If I remember correctly, the play calls for the hotel room walls to split open, revealing a war zone scene. In this production, it looks more like a bomb has hit the hotel and the debris becomes Ian and Kate’s new home. I feel like the scene change is more important than not because it calls into question where exactly the play is set. Is the hotel room actually set in the middle of a war zone, perhaps unbeknownst to the play’s characters? Or is Sarah Kane doing some kind of wibbly-wobbly spacey-wacey type thing where a hotel in ‘civilized’ England is magically transported to another war-torn, brutal location. The difference is subtle but it impacts the way you interpret the play’s connection between the racism, misogyny, violence, and suicidal tendencies in the first act and those same heightened themes in the second. Are the crimes in the first act any lesser than those in the second? Do they inevitably lead to each other?
On a personal note: I caught the play last night, on September 11th, and it was pretty surreal to witness it on a date that one can interpret as the ‘first-world’ colliding with the ‘third world’ so violently in obviously literal and ideological ways. Sarah Kane would surely have had plenty to say.
Blasted plays at the Duo Theater through September 28th.