by Sarah Kane translated by Klaudyna Rozhin.
Barbican Theatre To 27 March 2010.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TIOCKETS: 0845120 7550
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 March.
Mass technology as life leaks away.
However bad you feel, apparently it’s never worse than at 4.48am (GMT and British Summer Time?), when problems seem insoluble, the will to survive near inoperative. Don’t set you alarm-clock for then (what, though, about workers on the night-shift?).
Some people don’t survive. Two bright theatrical women, dead before 30, come to mind. Buzz Goodbody set-up the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Other Place, directed a widely-praised Hamlet then killed herself in 1975. And playwright Sarah Kane, whose last testament was this script.
Charles Dickens described the physical equivalent – a character who is freezingly cold however sweltering the world around. Externally, Goodbody and Kane both had further success beckoning, a career ahead, yet found living intolerable. It can be depicted, if never ultimately explained.
Life drains away, in this visiting production from TR Warszawa (in Polish, with English surtitles), as energy levels count down from 100. Angry rejection of anyone who cares or guides, sexual desire aggressively negative, are followed by the closing on of a huge perspex wall, leaving the protagonist outside, numbers falling like streams of rain down walls, self-mutilation (the only thing that feels great), a sense of dissociation, a physically near-naked appeal to any audience out there, all leading to final, quiet withdrawal from life at the 3-2-1 stage.
Technologically and theatrically inventive though Grzegorz Jarzyna’s large-scale staging is, the piece remains focused on one interior landscape, After the rejection of other people in the opening scene – it seems desperate at the time, but is mere normality compared with what follows – the big theatrical gestures seem effortful, if brilliant, beside the quiet moments: the protagonist sitting in a patch of light at a stage corner, darkness all around, or the moving final image, as voice, light and life fade-out. Only the face, and that barely, visible.
Beckett comes to mind – Endgame’s bleak landscape, and the mouth that is virtually all that’s seen in the brief Not I. But this mouth, unlike Beckett’s, has no shadowy auditor, and no longer wishes to speak. It’s here, sans technology, the production comes closest to the “still black water” of Kane’s script.
Cast: Magdalena Cieleko, Katarzyna Herman, Mariusz Benoit, Rafal Mackowiak, Janusz Chabior, Teresa Owczynnikow.
Director: Grzegorz Jarzyna.
Designer: Malgorzata Szczesniak.
Lighting: Felice Ross.
Music: Piotr Dominski, Pawel Mykietyn, Grzegorz Jarzyna.
Projection: Marcin Wiktorowski.