The infamous work of Sarah Kane is always uncompromising and unflinching, arresting audiences from start to finish and confronting them with the horrors of the real world. Never could it been more‘in-yer-face’ than in this newly built pub theatre at Porter’s – the Other Room. Seating only around fifty people, one would assume that such an extreme play as Blasted would need somewhere a little bigger. However, the intimate space proved far more effective in challenging audiences with the potent imagery and powerful messages that lie at the dark heart of Sarah Kane’s unforgettable play.
In a lavish hotel room somewhere in Leeds, a mismatched couple enter. The audience may expect a bog-standard two-hander about relationships. From the obscene opening line though, it’s clear that this play eschews all boundaries. Excuse any spoilers. We are introduced to Ian (Christian Patterson), a repulsively crass, middle-aged tabloid journalist, and Cate (Louise Collins), a young woman who, by the end, is raped, abused, gives birth to a baby that dies, then eaten, all the while suffering epileptic fits. Later, we discover the violence and unease exists not only in the hotel room. Escaping from an apocalyptic war outside, a brutally sadistic soldier (Simon Nehan) arrives and inflicts similar pains upon Ian as Cate suffered. The play’s structure fragments, abandoning words and instead showing humans in their most pathetic, vulnerable and despicable states. Within these bleak and sickening closing scenes, here, the moments of pure clarity emerge. In the atrocious acts committed by Ian and the Soldier, a shred of humanity catches the light in a world of darkness. The brilliance of Sarah Kane’s writing is her ability to humanise even the most disgraceful characters.
The accomplished trio of actors demonstrate consistent and impressive performances. Louise Collins’ portrayal of Cate goes through an intriguing development. She begins as mentally unsound and vulnerable with the exuberance of a little girl, before hardening and growing despite her trauma. In the final tableau, Cate’s last act of kindness to Ian is incredibly moving and deftly directed by Kate Wasserberg, whose interpretation of Sarah Kane’s enigmatic writing is pitch-perfect.
Simon Nehan excels as a comically Welsh Soldier, who soon becomes wracked with suffering and malice in equal measure. Not to say the comedy detracted away from the harshness of the play; the comedy was impeccably handled. Indeed, often Kane writes some hilarious one-liners in amongst the suffering. Christian Patterson gives a stellar performance as Ian, switching from brutality to vulnerability within seconds – a fearless actor with a striking presence.
With a cleverly designed set and Nick Gill’s beautifully tragic score, there is very little, if anything, to criticise in this production. Only that, if you have a weak disposition, see it at your own risk. There are moments when the tension is at a heart-stopping level. But that is no flaw, quite the opposite in fact.
In short, a thrilling, deeply affecting revival of an eternally relevant play. Cathartic and exhilarating, this play leaves you in a similar state to the title and is a promising start to The Other Room’s ‘Life in Close Up’ season.
‘Blasted’ is at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff until 7th March.