Thursday 17th July, Saturday 19th July, Wednesday 23rd July and Friday 25th July 2008
Directed by Damon Wakelin
An intensely personal and powerful exploration of love's assault on the individual... Crave is the interplay of four unnamed voices, calling out into the void with lyricism, humour and often distress.
'Crave' was Sarah Kane's fourth play. It premiered at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in August 1998, but was first heard as a reading as part of a programme run by Paines Plough. It was aired under a pseudonym largely so the play could be heard without the attendant baggage of her notorious reputation for graphic staged violence. It has no plot in any conventional sense, nor any physical action; Kane's script denotes the characters by initial letters only, and includes no stage directions of any kind other than indicating where to leave a beat between what are almost invariably single, brief lines. The work resembles a spoken poem and the lines include quotation, oblique reference and occasional lines in other languages. The gender of each character is only identifiable from context within the play. 'Crave' continues the theme of pain in love that Kane had explored with previous plays.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. It was staged as a double-bill in repertory with Ghost from a Perfect Place on alternate evenings throughout the 8-night run. The production was nominated for 'Best Amateur Drama' in the The News 'Guide' Awards 2008. Damon Wakelin was nominated for 'Best Amateur Director' in the The Southern Echo 'Curtain Call' Awards 2008.
|Stage Manager||John Wilcox|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Vicky Wakelin|
|Lighting Design||Damon Wakelin|
|Lighting Operation||Jacquie Penrose|
|Sound Design||Darryl Wakelin |
|Sound Operation||David Penrose|
|Set Design||Francine Huin-Wah|
|Poster and Flier Design||Damon Wakelin|
|Front of House Manager||Gina Farmer|
Whenever anyone has asked me what 'Crave' is about I have, perhaps flippantly, replied that I don't really know. This is not the usual stance for the director of a show, granted, but the truth is not so very far from the flippant. On the page, Crave can appear nigh-on impenetrable; four unnamed characters, all of whom seem to constantly switch both character and stylistic form, in a near narrative-free text. Where does one start?
From the moment I first read the play, I knew there was something magical locked within it. The imagery is poignant, startling, original, savage, revelatory, beautiful and evocative - often all at the same time. Even without the relative security of a readily identifiable narrative structure, the fundamental element of theatre lies in the interaction of characters in a given time, place and space. So that is where we started; who are these people and how are they connected? The choices we have made may not be Kane's original intentions, but I feel it lives and breathes in a manner that is truthful, honest and unflinchingly direct.
In identifying that M, (Julie Wood) is the central character we were able to extrapolate or trace back every exchange to her; from the physical and emotional abuse meted out by B, (Jeff Bone); to the interior dialogue and commentary provided by C, (Robin Hall), and again to the echoes of a past that M cannot escape provided by A, (Terry Smyth). We have made a sense of this play that conveys the stark beauty of Kane's language; that allows her, admittedly often quite dark, sense of humour to emerge and that allows her unexpected optimism to permeate its way through the tattered, shattered characters she has created for us.
A word, maybe more, for the cast. Brave souls, all! Jeff, Julie, Robin and Terry have openly accepted every conceivable challenge and opportunity that a play like 'Crave' throws your way. They have grappled with HOURS of textual analysis as we sought to define character, structure, meaning, intention, text, and sub-text. They have wrestled stoically with a text so fragmented that I can only imagine how difficult it has been to learn - and then Terry had to learn that speech! (You'll know which one I mean, I promise) Once we started moving about, they have had to cope with choreography... yep; walking and talking at the same time. They have discovered that I am vaguely OCD when it comes to symmetry and particularly the exact location of centre stage. And through it all, we have laughed and laughed and laughed. The performances they have created are sincere, thoughtful, considered, honest and true. I am grateful to them and proud of them.
Don't go looking for identifiable characters in Sarah Kane's play. They don't even have names. Don't go looking for cheap laughs. Yet although the controversial writer of Blasted and Cleansed was never one to court easy favour with audiences, Crave has a strangely lyrical and eloquent quality, and even a degree of admittedly bleak humour.
Bench Theatre capture these qualities well under what seems to be inspired direction by Damon Wakelin. With no stage directions or even punctuation to help him and the four actors, he often avoids the obvious in terms of movement and inter-reaction, yet his decisions generally seem effortlessly right. No-one is likely to understand every word at a first hearing, but every shade of meaning appears to be burnt into the minds and souls of actors Terry Smith, Jeff Bone, Robin Hall and Julie Wood.
It is impossible, of course to dissociate such despair from Sarah Kane's later suicide, yet the play ends on a pretty positive note. Crave runs for about 55 minutes. Bench are performing it in repertoire with another piece of 'in-yer-face theatre', Philip Ridley's 'Ghost From a Perfect Place', until July 26.
The News, 18th July 2008
Mostly free of a definite narrative, Sarah Kane's poetic drama must be interpreted differently by all who see or perform it. It says much for the work and for this production that this does not lead to any obscurity, lack of tension or absence of emotional engagement.
Two men (Jeff Bone and Terry Smyth) and two women (Robin Hall and Julie Wood) deliver rapid fire speeches and snatches of dialogue, that dramatise, among other things, lust, desire, perversion, love and the need for autonomy. Although a little too busy in places, director Damon Wakelin's staging mostly helps his very able cast to make the rapid transitions of character and feeling required, and his lighting design brings the show to an effective, moving conclusion.
But the actors deserve equal credit for the depth, variety and energy they give to their performances. Smyth's delivery of the show's only long speech was outstanding.
Southern Daily Echo, 25th July 2008