Chichester Festival Theatre
We live in difficult times, cut off from friends and family. It often seems nearly impossible to comprehend returning to what we once thought normal. As such Chichester Festival Theatre’s decision to salvage Crave – a bleak, difficult, dark piece by Sarah Kane – from their summer season and put it on in the main house, where normally it would jar becomes an apt and fitting choice.
Kane was a bright light of the British theatre scene, threatening to burn it down and party in the ashes through her searingly difficult, resolutely honest plays before she took her own life. Amongst her small and often difficult works Crave stands out as an anomaly. Four disparate voices struggling for belonging, understanding… for love. There’s no subtext to ground them, no setting or character arc, the characters don’t even have names, just letters and genders. As such it’s been a widely interpreted piece, often with an array of added bells and whistles that add nothing.
Here director Tinuke Craig and designer Alex Lowde use a deceptively simple technique… the four actors are on treadmills, the speed of which changes throughout the performance. They strive to push on but are relentlessly dragged backwards by the pasts they detail to us. The addition of projected images and broken video across the back wall adds to the stark, almost sterile feel. We are truly on the outside looking in.
The assembled cast fit together perfectly. Alfred Enoch’s B has an air of nonchalance that hides real pain, his lines delivered with charm and a grin threatening to form at any moment, but he internalises his pain and crumbles as we progress. M (Wendy Kweh) seems to be distanced from her own story, but is dragged back in.
Conversely Erin Doherty’s C is all pain, her emotions writ large upon her face, her body curled with the physical repercussions of emotional scars. Where the others speak, she is always holding in a scream. They sometimes seem to speak to each other, but mostly address the audience in the manner of a confession or therapy session, cutting over and across each other. A is the only one of the quartet to break the mold, delivering monologues alongside snatched sentences. Jonathan Slinger’s soft, heartfelt soliloquy on love and longing soars and lights up an otherwise dark journey.
It’s a blunt force impact of emotion, building to a frenzy and then, in a little under 50 minutes, it’s over and we leave. The world outside is just the same, but we’re refreshed – a vital dose of theatre to see us through winter months.
Crave runs until 7th November, with audiences permitted until the 5th. It is available to livestream at cft.org.uk