Ambitious season offers a range of thrilling theatre

Rarely can a play have received such a violently hostile reception.

Actor and director Richard Wilson will be directing a production of Blasted in Sheffield Theatres Sarah Kane season.
Actor and director Richard Wilson will be directing a production of Blasted in Sheffield Theatres Sarah Kane season.

It was branded by the Daily Mail a “disgusting feast of filth”, The Spectator a “sordid little travesty of a play” and The Sunday Telegraph “a gratuitous welter of carnage”.

Come the New Year, I anticipate audiences will be champing at the bit to see the feast of filth that is Sarah Kane’s incredible play Blasted.

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The 1995 play, which premiered at the Royal Court, is a key element of the new season at Sheffield Theatres.

The theatre has, under the reign of current artistic director Daniel Evans, introduced the idea of a season of work dedicated to a single writer.

Following in the footsteps of David Hare, Michael Frayn and Brian Friel, the theatre announced last week that its latest season would feature a series of works by Sarah Kane.

Students of theatre will pack the venues during the Sarah Kane season, but I expect many will be drawn to the season out of sheer curiosity.

Blasted, Kane’s most infamous work, has visited Yorkshire a couple of times over the past decade – I remember a particularly visceral version of it by Graeae in the studio of York Theatre Royal in 2006 – but it is not regularly produced and certainly not round these parts.

The fact that a character has their eyes sucked out and a baby is eaten on stage might have something to do with that.

Blasted is the most controversial aspect of the Sarah Kane season, but since her suicide in 1999 there has been a major rethink of the importance of her theatre writing.

Michael Billington, chief among British theatre critics, long since recanted on his dismissive 1995 review of the play, a volte-face possibly helped by Kane’s building on her first work with a number of plays – every single one of which will be staged during the Sheffield season.

The Sarah Kane season opens on February 4 with Blasted, directed by Richard Wilson. Charlotte Gwinner, newly appointed to the role of associate director, will bring Crave to the stage in March and 4:48 Psychosis, a fascinating piece of work 
that gives the director few clues – it features no character names and no stage directions.

Alongside these two full productions Daniel Evans will direct semi-staged readings of Kane’s plays Phaedra’s Love and Cleansed and there will be a screening of her disturbing short film Skin.

The new season, which is on sale to the public from November 15, will also feature a production of Arthur Miller’s Playing For Time, David Hare’s The Absence of War and a new production of 
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, directed by Tamara Harvey. Lucy Prebble’s award-winning The Effect and a new play Camelot: The Shining City are also part of the new season.

Evans says: “This is one of our most ambitious seasons yet. We’re announcing eight plays and there’s so much to celebrate. I’m thrilled that the work of female artists will play a prominent role throughout the season.

“I hope the opportunity to see Sarah Kane’s work alongside an adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel and a regional premiere by Lucy Prebble will offer audiences in our city region a thrilling range of theatre.”