Sarah Kane’s “Cleansed” and “4.48 Psychosis” at Von Krahl theatre

| |

| Quiet Racket |

Some impressions from seeing Juhan Ulfsak’s staging of these two plays by Sarah Kane at Von Krahl theatre.

First of all, these two plays were performed as a set divided by a 30-minute interval. I’m not sure what the reason for this pairing was. As much as I found out from the program and some interviews “Cleansed” is supposedly about permanence of love and “4.48 Psychosis” about depression and death. Had I not been told that I would have guessed that both plays were about death and madness and violence. Had I not been told a lot of things I would not have understood anything. And I’m still not sure I understood anything. Yes, after doing some research I know what Kane meant to say, but there was no way I could have gathered that from the productions alone. And I couldn’t say whether it attests to complicatedness and abstractedness of Kane or to purposefully abstract interpretation of the productions.

I know I know, Kane is supposed to be an attack on one’s senses (in-yer-face theatre and all that), but if the connections to metaphors and symbols are rather loose and you fail to make any connections while you’re witnessing this brutal violence, what you tend to do is switch off. That much violence needs to be set off with explicit and garishly put meaning. Or you block out the whole thing and miss the message. The accompanying program advised to disregard the violence in order to get to the meaning (permanence of love). But it is really hard to disregard the violence. Even when you’re told to. The love wasn’t loud enough. It didn’t come across to me at all. It felt far too shallow and insincere.

Ulfsak seemed to focus on the 1990s and 90-ness of the play. Sure, that’s when it was written, but I fail to see how it was inextricably of that decade. The reproduction of Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” video was impeccable, I enjoyed that very much, and I can see why Ulfsak chose (or was it Kane? I really don’t know) the image of Kurt Cobain as reincarnation of the Graham/Grace pairing, but something in me rebells against such appropriation of this pop culture figure.

All in all “Cleansed” can be a feast (as proved by this essay), but only if you get what’s going on. If you don’t you are likely to walk away with not much more than the memory of smell of burning plastic.

“4.48 Psychosis”

Taavi Eelmaa is it. The sufferer boxed into his room counting down, questioning what he has to offer to his friends, doubting his worth. We observe via cc-tv cameras, clinically, no need to get too close. The theatre becomes nothing but a screen, we see the entire performance on a screen. The medics, the friends, the un-depressed are on our side of the screen. 90% of the time is spent just observing his rants (and pain?). No attempt is made to break through to him until the very end. That’s pretty clever. I get that. But – uh, and this is a personal tick – why does it have to be a man? Ok, why does it have to be a woman? But no, I don’t buy it. My compassion for privileged characters has worn very thin (I admit I’m highly sensitive to feminist issues at the moment). And something about this character’s behaviour just doesn’t sit right. He’s a bit too angry. I didn’t sense anger from reading the play beforehand. Anger indicates desire to keep fighting (to live? be violent against others?).

Avaldatud: Quiet Racket / 24.09.2013