Death is an overarching presence in Sarah Kane's theatre work, in terms of both stage action and theme. From her debut play, Blasted (1995), through to Phaedra's Love (1996) and Cleansed (1998), Kane's dramatic universe is peopled by characters charging towards death, and usually encountering it in scenes of Grand Guignol excess and grotesque violence featuring spectacular displays of torture, body mutilation and dismemberment. Here, as well as in the later plays, death is ambivalently presented as the only escape from the nightmare of living and, at the same time, as that which makes living a nightmare; as the moment of “complete sanity and humanity” in which, as Kane herself put it, “everything suddenly connects”, and as the ultimate, irrevocable and unredeemable act of self-annihilation. Following Kane's turn towards a more poetic form of drama, in her last two plays this discourse of death is handed over to the words nameless characters (Crave, 1998) or unidentified voices (4:48 Psychosis, staged posthumously in 2000) who are likewise engaged in a long, painful quest for selfhood pivoting on the awareness of mortality and the simultaneous dread of and longing for death it engenders (a contradiction sublimely captured in 4:48 Psychosis through the ironic line “I have become so depressed by the fact of my mortality that I have decided to commit suicide”). In this context, the increasingly confessional, introspective tone of Kane's dramatic voice has tended to validate biographical readings of her entire opus as one long, carefully crafted and lucidly planned suicide note, with the writer's history of existential despair and self-inflicted death testifying to the honesty of her dramatic vision. While not wishing to downplay the prominence of Kane's persona and the way her suicide inevitably affects the reception of the texts, this essay aims to foreground the ritual quality of the death scenes and/or narratives that crowd her drama. Throughout Kane's work, dying is never an easy, straightforward business, but rather a long, complicated, and at times frustrating mise en scène which also entails rehearsing a repertory of traditional rituals and, once their shortcomings become apparent, devising and testing new ones. The amount of theatricality involved in the art of dying is foregrounded through a web of intertextual references to other literary and/or dramatic sources, most notably Shakespeare and Beckett; rather than working as a distancing device, however, this dialogue ties in with a self-reflexive probing of the theatre's ability to provide a ritual that will be capable of “contain[ing] the horror” (Crave) by supplying a formal framework to express, embody and experience death collectively. In this respect, I argue that Sarah Kane's death narrative, while alluding to her own demise and dismemberment of traditional notions of dramatic form and character, ultimately points to stage space with its inherent duplicity (real/metaphorical, objective/subjective) as an ideal arena to understand and challenge the fate of the body.
|Titolo:||“‘A horror so deep only ritual can contain it’: The Art of Dying in the Theatre of Sarah Kane”|
|Anno del prodotto:||2010|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|