The part: Cate in `Blasted'.
The year: 1995
I'D DONE a few plays after I left Rose Bruford drama school, but Blasted was a turning-point for me. I was about 22, and found myself in this play at the Royal Court that everyone was talking about.
The tabloids were sniffing around. Harold Pinter came to see it and sent the playwright, Sarah Kane, a letter of support. Every audition I went to after that, they said "Oh, so you were in Blasted".
I was playing Cate, an epileptic with a mental age of 12, who gets raped by a soldier. What was interesting was that everyone in the theatre thought the actors were having a really tragic time of it, but we were all having a laugh. It was quite surprising to us that some of the audience found it so shocking they walked out, or even fainted.
On the last night, there was even some real blood. It was early on, after the masturbation scene and before the oral sex. Pip Donaghy, who was playing Ian, my middle-aged lover, had to open a bottle of champagne.
The metal bit twisted off and cut his hand. I had to have a fit in which I cried and laughed hysterically, then fainted, and he had to flick water over me. As he tried to revive me, he saw blood fly everywhere.
He just turned to the audience and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very bleak show but it's not that bleak. I'm going off stage to get a plaster.
It was one of those moments where you just don't stop a play. I was left lying on the bed, not knowing what to do. I thought: "I can't stay here; I'm out of character". So I got up and went off. Then Pip came back on, with a plaster, and said something ridiculous like "Where's my leading lady gone?"
So back I came and he picked a line and said "Let's go from there.
I realised to my horror that the next thing I had to do was laugh and cry hysterically all over again. I thought: "They'll know it's fake if I do it exactly the same a second time... so I did a shorter version. It wasn't as good ,which was a shame, because it was such a brief run and everyone wants the last performance to be the best one. But the audience probably enjoyed it more.
They got a kick out of the fact that something genuinely unexpected had happened in Blasted.
Kate Ashfield stars in `Closer', at the Lyric Shaftesbury (0171-494 5045) Booking to 31 Oct
Interview byReuse content