- Mark Fisher
- 16 August 2008
This article is from 2008.
Painful journey into despair
Having seen Grzegorz Jarzyna's mesmerising production of this Sarah Kane play on the intimate stage of TR Warszawa in Poland, I was concerned the playwright's sad mediation on suicide would lose its intensity on the bigger stage of the King's. I needn't have worried. If anything, the superlative performance of Magdalena Cielecka, playing a woman gripped in the most violent extreme of a bipolar illness, gains through being shown in such isolation, lost and alone on an empty stage.
Jarzyna presents the play, Kane's last before she ended her own life, as a hypnotic nightmare, figures drifting in and out of Cielecka's field of view as if she has conjured them up. There are the real-world lovers, friends and doctors, but also the hallucinatory visions of the child she once was and the 80-year-old woman she feels like. It is bleak viewing, in spite of its smatterings of resilient humour, yet it communicates a huge amount about the helpless despair of mental illness and the enormity of the task faced by friends and carers.
With a disconcerting score, all unearthly rumbling, and high-precision lighting, the production plots a meaningful route through the abstractions of Kane's poetry while keeping enough sense of dreamy uncertainty to make it clear we are entering a disturbed mind. The long pause before the audience feels comfortable to applaud only adds to the atmosphere of desolation.
King's Theatre, 473 2000, until 17 Aug, 8pm, from £10.