A very angry young woman

Sick? Who are you calling sick? What's really sick is the reaction to my play, says Sarah Kane of Blasted.

"The most notorious playwright in Britain" Sarah Kane, sits drinking black coffee (she's a vegan) and worrying what her parents are going to think of her play Blasted.

Twenty-three-year old Kane takes a sanguine attitude to her succes de scandale of the past week. It's no mean achievement that your first professionally produced play is featured on Newsnight. But Kane expresses genuine surprise that so much media attention could be devoted to a play in a 65-seat theatre in the same week that thousands have died in a Japanese earthquake.

Only two years ago she was the youngest student on David Edgar's MA in play-writing at Birmingham University, where her extreme youth was offset by two distinct advantages: a conspicuous talent and a burning need to confront certain issues in her writing. She was accepted on the course on the basis of a monologue called Starved, which tells of a bulimic woman.

When told she had to write dialogue, not just monologues, she produced a sketch in which a woman stands talking to a man, while pointing a gun at his genitals. She was never one to shy away from controversy, and Edgar remembers her with wry affection as "a woman with a lot of strong opinions".

Blasted, which has re-established the Royal Court as the home of angry young writers, is, Kane reveals, the first part of an eventual trilogy about the nature of war. "For me there isn't anything else to write about. It's the most pressing thing to confront."

What makes Blasted so vivid and so dangerous is its ability to link domestic, personal, emotional - even verbal - violence with war and the atrocities that take place during it.

It is especially shocking that this appalling vision comes from the imagination of so young a woman, barely out of tertiary education, the daughter of a journalist, born and brought up in Essex. Yet the emotional honesty of her writing suggests that she has plumbed great depths in herself to write it, and it touches audiences in a similarly challenging way. "Any piece of writing that is good or honest inevitably draws on the writer's emotional experience," she said. "The play isn't autobiographical in any sense - though it is based on my experience of the way people behave."

Kane is passionately opposed to the values of suburban south-east England. Perhaps this offers a key to her identity as a writer?

"I suppose I would be a different person if I didn't come from Essex, so obviously I would be a different kind of writer," she admits. "But I wouldn't give Essex credit for that.

"It has a mentality that is very blind to our relationships with Europe and with the rest of Britain. There is an attitude that certain things could not happen here. Yet there's the same amount of abuse and corruption in Essex as anywhere else, and that'

s what I want to blow open. Just because there hasn't been a civil war in England for a very long time doesn't mean that what is happening in Bosnia doesn't affect us."

At Bristol University, where she walked away with a first in drama, Kane began to get a taste for those very un-Essex men, Edward Bond, Howard Barker and Samuel Beckett.

"When I read Saved, I was deeply shocked by the baby being stoned. But then I thought, there isn't anything you can't represent on stage. If you are saying you can't represent something, you are saying you can't talk about it, you are denying its existence, and that's an extraordinarily ignorant thing to do.

"My intention was to be absolutely truthful about abuse and violence. All of the violence in the play has been carefully plotted and dramatically structured to say what I want about war. The logical conclusion of the attitude that produces an isolated rape in England is the rape camps in Bosnia. And the logical conclusion to the way society expects men to behave is war."

In her desire to write truthfully about war, Kane has been formally daring in a way that the Royal Court's Stephen Daldry believes has been misunderstood. "One of our disappointments is that the metaphorical landscape has not been understood, or has beenobscured by the controversy," he says.

"I tried to draw on lots of different theatrical traditions," explains Kane. "War is confused and illogical, therefore it is wrong to use a form that is predictable. Acts of violence simply happen in life, they don't have a dramatic build-up, and they are horrible. That's how it is in the play. Critics would prefer it if there was something artificial or glamorous about violence."

The seriousness of Kane's intentions cannot be doubted, and the Royal Court is standing by her, as Daldry confirmed: "We're committed to her not just for this play, but for her career. We wouldn't dream of not programming a play for approval's sake, but nor do we seek that controversy. It is deeply worrying for a liberal press to suggest that we should keep our heads tucked down at a time of attacks from the right in the hope of preserving funding. That would be a cultural surrender."

If Kane's vision is so bleak, how can she get up every morning? She answers with surprise. "Once you have perceived that life is very cruel, the only response is to live with as much humanity, humour and freedom as you can. Writing is an expression of that - so it is ironic that people are trying to clamp down on it."

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before