Painful journey into despair
This article is from 2008.
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.