By Sophia Atkinson
Crave (1998), Sarah Kane’s penultimate, one-act play, taken on by the Collingwood Woodplayers is a hugely challenging task for any actors, directors and tech team. Assured by the directors, Alice Chambers and Helena Snider, that the rehearsal process has been gruelling, seeing the open rehearsal performance of the play on Monday afternoon, I could see why.
Kane is so well-known for shock aesthetics, and violent ‘in yer face’ theatre that she adopted a pseudonym for Crave to avoid critical attention. Key themes involve incredibly sensitive topics, primarily sexual violence and rape. Such content presents sufficient difficulty for young actors approaching the material, even without the play’s fragmented structure, reflecting an empty subjectivity.
Divided into multiple interlocking monologues, the characters, named A, B, C and M, overlap with voices merging while characters remain absolutely detached. Although the play is often compared to T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, structurally and thematically, the sense of forgetting, stasis, cyclicality and metadrama reminded me far more of Beckett’s drama.
The direction of Chambers and Snider is to be applauded given the play itself provides no stage direction, only lines of dialogue. Their stripped back approach to staging and lighting, while not original, allowed the audience to focus on character dissection. I did think there was greater potential to differentiate character’s voices, enabling a heightened sense of alienation and separation. However, the bringing together of certain pairings of characters in terms of blocking to clarify the dense nature of the dialogue at times, or to heighten the sense of fragmentation and confusion at other points was commendable.
A particular highlight was when A, played by Owen Sparkes, delivered an outstanding monologue attempting to communicate the incommunicable love bordering on obsession he had for an unnamed female. The spotlight unwaveringly focused on him as B, C and M formed a loose freeze frame sometimes seemingly responding to what was said but often staring fixedly into space as A’s passionate outpouring rose. Sparkes, despite a few natural stumbles, took on the dense dialogue with an ease and sensitivity justifying the sparse staging and unflinchingly capturing the sense of communion and simultaneous repugnance in human relations.
Unfortunately, I did feel that stark obscenities in the writing, not entirely embraced by the actors, did clash with the seeming attempts at poetical style in, arguably, a failed experimentation of form and content. Particularly, I found a number of lines cliché and the repetition of ‘I feel nothing’, ‘I did nothing’, ‘There’s so little time’ slightly clunky. For me, the excessive focus on language required more consistent linguistic originality or artistry.
This, however, is no criticism at all of the ensemble who were all individually extremely strong and struck a delicate balance between interaction and distance in pairings. The show looks to be extremely promising for its fringe run in August. With a little more work on maintaining energy and intensity throughout, particularly with regard to pacing some of the longer monologues, and some creative set ideas to reflect the play’s tropes, I have no doubt Crave will be extremely successful.
Crave will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this 13th to 25th August. Tickets are available HERE.
Photography: The Crave Production Team.