Sarah Kane overview





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Current theatre is in decline because on the one hand it has lost any feeling for seriousness, and on the other for laughter.  Because it has broken away from solemnity, from direct, harmful effectiveness- in a word from Danger.  For it has lost any true sense of humour, and laughter's physical, anarchic, dissolving power.  Because it has broken away from the profoundly anarchic spirit at the basis of all poetry.

Antonin Artaud, translated by Victor Corti

Sarah Kane was born in Essex on 3 February 1971. Both parents were journalists and deeply religious. She studied drama at Bristol University, graduating with first class honours, then did an MA at Birmingham University. She suffered from depression and had spells in hospital. A suicide attempt with sleeping pills was unsuccessful but a few days later on 20 February 1999 she hung herself in the hospital where she was being treated.

flowers for Sarah Kane Flowers for Sarah by Jess.
Outside the Royal Court Theatre, two years on.

Her talent was recognised early. Mel Kenyon saw a student production of Blasted and became her agent. The Royal Court Theatre staged many of her works. She is now translated and performed all over the world.

Sarah Kane James MacDonald writes "what she did was gentle, truthful and intelligent. She also loved music, and one day some trainspotter may feel impelled to write a thesis on the number of lines in her plays that are actually borrowed from the works of Joy Division, the Pixies, Ben Harper, Radiohead, Polly Harvey, the Tindersticks, even Elvis Presley. Her theatrical gods were Beckett, Pinter, Bond, Potter, but she wrote directly from her own experience and from her heart"

When Kane wrote Crave under the name Marie Kelvedon (Kane grew up in Kelvedon Hatch) she produced the following fictional biographical notes for Marie:

Marie Kelvedon is twenty-five. She grew up in Germany in British Forces accommodation and returned to Britain at sixteen to complete her schooling. She was sent down from St Hilda’s college, Oxford, after her first term, for an act of unspeakable Dadaism in the college dining hall. She has had her short stories published in various European literary magazines and has a volume of poems Onzuiver (’Impure’) published in Belgium and Holland. Her Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut was in 1996, a spontaneous happening through a serving hatch to an audience of one. Since leaving Holloway she has worked as a mini-cab driver, a roadie with the Manic Street Preachers and as a continuity announcer for BBC Radio World Service. She now lives in Cambridgeshire with her cat, Grotowski.

Chronology of her work

  As an actor Work by Vincent O'Connell
Victory by Howard Barker, playing Bradshaw
Cleansed (a few performances as Grace)
Crave (a few performances as C)
  As a director Joan Littlewood's Oh, What A Lovely War at school
Works by Shakespeare at school
Chekhovīs The Bear at Soho Polytechnic
Shakespeare's Macbeth at Bristol University
Caryl Churchill's Top Girls at Bristol University
Clare McIntyre's Low Level Panic at Bristol University. Susan Salmon played Mary

Georg Buchner's Woyzeck
Phaedra's Love
1991/ 1993 As a writer Sick, three monologues performed at the Edinburgh Festival. The monologues are:
- Comic Monologue
- Starved
- What She Said

The monologues are unavailable, but "the bits of monologue she really liked resurfaced in the published work... particularly Crave and 4.48" (Simon Kane, on the site discussion page, 15-11-2001).

Blasted produced as an MA student production.

1995 Sarah Kane Blasted Blasted produced at the Royal Court Theatre, London
1995   How to make a Jew laugh

To tie in with the New York premiere of Blasted, the December 2008 issue of the 'Brooklyn Rail' magazine reproduces Sarah's account of her meeting with Jackie Mason.  You can read it in the discussion forum "Sarah meets Jackie Mason".  Thanks to site visitor malmo58 for the information.

1996 Sarah Kane Phaedras Love Phaedra's Love produced at the Gate Theatre, London
1997 Sarah Kane Skin Skin, an 11 minute film with script by Kane, broadcast on Channel 4
1998 Sarah Kane Cleansed Cleansed produced at the Royal Court Theatre, London
1998   Two short articles for The Guardian newspaper "Drama with Balls" and "The only thing I remember is...".  See the magazines page for more details.
1998 Sarah Kane Crave Crave produced at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
2000 Sarah Kane 4.48 Psychosis 4.48 Psychosis produced posthumously at the Royal Court Theatre, London


Theatre has no memory, which makes it the most existential of the arts.

Sarah Kane, 1998



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