There is nowhere to hide from Sarah Kane’s savage monologue in Christian Benedetti’s stark production at the Young Vic.
On a bare stage resembling nothing more than an oversized wooden bed frame, with minimal lighting, a woman stands, haunted, on the brink of sanity, on the brink of life. There is no flourish of extravagant costumes to distract the eyes, no excessive movement; just her and the audience, held in stasis, held in silence.
All focus is on Anamaria Marinca’s delivery of Kane’s words. Her darkly beautiful poetry, enticing yet dangerous like a midnight lake, contrasts with the anger-filled hate of her crass explosions.
Kane’s character has been destroyed by what a physician describes as pathological grief; what is left in Marinca’s performance is a husk, desperate to feel and to love. Unable to break through the despair which holds her captive, she makes the decision to escape from her own personal hell. Her rambling, tormenting thoughts shift from recollecting strained meetings to delving deep into her dark fantasies as the destined hour of her sanity approaches.
At times she appears to talk to the audience, at times to herself, but always with an air of panic and fear.
This is not pleasant, comfortable theatre. Those who have forgotten the uneasy power of Kane’s writing, or have never experienced it, will be in for a shock, but this production’s strength comes not only from the text but from the conviction in its powerful stillness and its long, awkward, heart-squeezing, lung-crushing silences, and from the communal sharing of the “beautiful pain that says I exist”.