Sarah Kane



  • (1971 - 99) British dramatist, whose intense, visceral, and often savage work established her as the enfant terrible of the British theater before her career was cruelly cut short by suicide at the age of 28. Kane was brought up in Essex, the daughter of two journalists who were also devout Evangelicals. In the early 1990s she studied drama at Bristol University, where she began to direct, and went on to take a playwriting course at Birmingham under David Edgar.

    Kane's MA student production formed the basis of her first full-length play Blasted, which incurred instant notoriety when it was seen at the Royal Court Upstairs in 1995. The play, which includes a number of grotesquely violent and shocking scenes (at one point a journalist has his eyes sucked out and swallowed by a war-crazed soldier), provoked a storm of abuse not equalled since the first production of Bond's Saved 30 years earlier: critics variously reviled it as "naïve tosh", "utterly without artistic merit", and a "disgusting feast of filth". The few dissenting voices included playwrights Caryl Churchilland Harold Pinter. Kane followed this succes de scandale with Phaedra'sLove (1996), a cynical updating of the Phaedra and Hippolytus story describedby its author as "my comedy", and Cleansed (1998), a dream-like play exploring extremes of love and cruelty in what appears to be a prison camp. Crave, a highly elliptical piece with no named characters, specified setting, or stage directions, earned Kane largely positive reviews when it was staged at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 1998. To avoid the notoriety associated with her name, it had been presented under the pseudonym Marie Kelvedon. It is now generally seen as Kane's most lyrical and mature work, albeit a deeply despairing one. Despair is also the keynote of Kane's last play, 4.48 Psychosis, a fragmented piece written in the throes of severe depression: the title apparently refers to 4.48 a.m., a time at which she often found herself awake with suicidal thoughts. The play was given a posthumous production in 2000.

    Kane's reputation has grown rapidly since her death, with a London revival of Blasted earning laudatory reviews in 2001. Her work has also found an appreciative audience in Germany, Poland, and other parts of Continental Europe.