Barbican Pit, London
May 11, 2018
Sarah Kane’s Crave was premiered in 1998 under a pseudonym as the author wished to distance herself from the notoriety that the graphic violence in earlier plays had attracted. However, this work is more poetry than drama, a series of loosely structured monologues on dark and intimate themes. The words have a flow and a rhythm that invites movement and it is easy to see the attraction it holds for choreographer, Julie Cunningham who, together with Joyce Henderson directs the work.
The lighting and design are unobtrusive and the sound design, as the audience troop in, is a medley of the mundane and memorable: a bird song over urban clamour. Each of the four actors, identified only by initials (A, B, C and M), explores their encounters with love and the resultant pain and damage. They share the space and time but inhabit different spheres, free to catch a word from another’s story and make it their own. Relationship of the here and now, or memories of past incidents, often brutal and disturbing, flood into consciousness, are told episodically then relegated to the shadows. The memories are intense, arising from a very deep place and told in direct honest words. It makes riveting theatre.
Despite the raw content of the words, the narrative flow like a musical line to find an unexpected wholeness. However, the dance does not find an equal voice. The stage seems at times to offer too little space to define the movement and the cool abstraction of Cunningham’s style is rendered less visible in the heat of the passion; the dancers moving like silent shadows as the text embroiders around their shapes.
Although each dancer is paired with an actor, there is little direct exchange except when in a dramatic outburst, Cunningham strikes out against, Anna Martine Freeman, probably the most sanguine of the characters. It is only in the final moments that they all seem to have arrive on the same page then the actors peel off leaving the space for the dancers in a final distinguishing moment. It was a strangely incomplete evening.