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Sarah Kane Sarah Kan
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Kane Phaedra's Love- click for link Didaskalia

Kane’s cleverest change is to reverse the myth, in which Hippolytus' chastity becomes his impenetrable barrier to Phaedra’s desire. At a stroke, this deflects the accusations of implicit misogyny sometimes laid at the door of the Hippolytus myth, where in Euripides and Seneca for example, it is the ungovernability of female sexual desire that powers the drama. In Kane’s version Hippolytus is a virtual sex addict, but empty and unable to feel any passion, a kind of misanthropic stereotype of a nihilist. Phaedra can certainly have sex with him if she desires, as he doesn’t have much objection to the process, or indeed, who it is it with; whether Phaedra, Strophe or a random man in the royal garden. But for Hippolytus it is only ever that: a physical process bereft of emotion, meaning or significance...

Sarah Kane Phaedra's LOve

Is the play therefore a black comedy with overtones of farce (indeed it has some of Kane’s funniest lines and she was, despite her reputation, a very comic writer)? Or is it a moral fable about the sudden power of love, or the need for love to promote change in a world where all significance has been eroded and where it would appear that, as in T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’: ‘death has undone so many’?

click for link Alison Croggon 10 Nov 2004

Yet in his monstrous boredom, his disgust with the falsity of everything that surrounds him, Hippolytus is also a curiously attractive character. Behind his joylessness and refusal of any human contact lies a desire for absolute honesty, a ruthless integrity which will have no truck with a world that disgusts him. The only time he shows anything like wonder is after he hears of Phaedra's suicide: "She really did love me... Bless her." And it becomes clear that Phaedra's accusation of rape against him is not the act of revenge that it appears to be, but a gift: the orgy of violence which follows is, at last, a real moment, in which there is no trace of human deceit. Hence his final words: "If there could have been more moments like this."

Phaedra's suicide is the logical result of the fire which has so consumed her, her abnegation the utter loss of self which is, as Kane perceived, tragically attracted to its opposite, the self that will compromise nothing. The gravity exerted by these extremes detroys everything around them - Phaedra's daughter Strophe (Fabianne Parr) is raped and murdered by Theseus (Peter Roberts) in the final carnage. But Kane's humour here is wicked: the murders of the Royal family are represented as a barbecue, with Hippolytus' genitals becoming a gruesome sausage.

Kane's grand guignol violence contains a serious critique, of classical theatre as much as of the nature of human love and the dilemma of the self. It's in eight tautly written scenes, which move rapidly to its horrifying and obscenely funny conclusion.

--- Varsity, Felicity Poulter, 2 Nov 2001 (link has gone- www.varsity.cam.ac.uk)

When I left this production I had been converted, not just because I realised that Kane's play could actually be quite good in the right hands, but because I had been proved wrong about the limitations of theatre as a medium. This production is bizarre, perhaps bemusing, but brave. Despite its credentials it's actually quite a fun night out and it might even make you think too.

--- The Oregonian, Richard Wattenberg, 17 Jan 2002 (link has gone- www.oregonlive.com/artsandevents)

While she harks back to the mythic Phaedra and Hippolytus story in "Phaedra's Love," her interpretation of the tale is nothing like the Seneca version that inspired her. Nor is it similar, other than in rough outline, to the Euripides or Racine versions. Kane's play is set in a modern world where brutal sex, pointless violence and faithless hypocrisy are the norms. Here, church, state and mob are equally infected by vicious duplicity.


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