Last updated

Cover of the Methuen edition
Written by Sarah Kane
Date premiered12 January 1995 (1995-01-12)
Place premiered Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London
Original language English
Subject War, sexual violence
SettingAn expensive hotel room in Leeds, UK

Blasted is the first play by the British author Sarah Kane. It was first performed in 1995 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London. [1]



The play is set in an expensive hotel room in Leeds. Ian, a foul-mouthed middle-aged tabloid journalist has brought a young woman, Cate, to the room for the night. Cate is much younger than Ian, emotionally fragile, and seemingly intellectually simple.

Throughout Scene 1, Ian tries to seduce Cate, but she resists. All the while, Ian proudly parades his misogyny, racism and homophobia. The scene ends with the sound of spring rain.

Scene 2 begins the next morning. Ian engages in frottage with Cate during one of her fits. Afterwards, Cate performs oral sex on Ian, biting him. Cate retires to the bathroom. A soldier unexpectedly enters the room brandishing a gun, and finds Cate has escaped through the bathroom window. The hotel room is then struck by a mortar bomb, and the scene ends with the sound of summer rain.

In Scene 3, the hotel room is in ruins; the bomb has blasted a hole in the wall. The soldier and Ian begin to talk, and it is gradually revealed that the hotel is located in the midst of a brutal war. The soldier tells Ian about appalling atrocities that he has witnessed and taken part in, involving rape, torture and genocide, and says he has done everything as an act of revenge for the murder of his girlfriend. He then rapes Ian, and sucks out his eyes. The scene ends with the sound of autumn rain.

In Scene 4, Ian lies blinded next to the soldier, who has committed suicide. Cate returns, describing the city being overrun by soldiers, and bringing with her a baby that she has rescued. The baby dies, and she buries it in a hole in the floorboards and leaves, but not before arguing with Ian about the utility or futility of praying during a burial. The scene ends with the sound of heavy winter rain.

Scene 5 consists of a series of brief images, showing Ian crying, masturbating and even hugging the dead soldier for comfort as he starves in the ruined room. Eventually, he crawls into the hole with the dead baby and eats it. The stage direction then reads that Ian dies. It starts raining, and Ian says "Shit". Cate returns, bringing sausage and gin. The blood seeping down her legs implies that she has paid for this by having sex with the soldiers outside. She eats and hand-feeds the rest of her meal to Ian, who says: "Thank you." [2]

Notable productions

1995 – Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London, UK (directed by James Macdonald)

1997 – Teatro della Limonania, Sesto Fiorentino, Florence, Italy

2001 – Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London, UK (directed by James Macdonald)

2008 – Queens Hotel, Leeds, UK (directed by Felix Mortimer)- Produced in its authentic setting, this production by 19;29 Performance saw the audience invited into the hotel room Kane set the play within. [4]

2008 – Soho Rep, New York City, New York, U.S. (directed by Sarah Benson)

2010 – Lyric Hammersmith, London, UK (directed by Sean Holmes)

2015 – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, UK (directed by Richard Wilson)

2019 – TheaterArche, Vienna, Austria (directed by Tom Crawley) [9]

Critical reception

The initial performance was highly controversial and the play was fiercely attacked by most newspaper critics, many of whom regarded it as an attempt to shock the audience. [12] However, critics have subsequently reassessed it; for example The Guardian's Michael Billington, who savaged the play in his first review, later recanted in the wake of Kane's suicide: "I got it wrong, as I keep saying. She was a major talent. Apparently, Harold Pinter said at her memorial service that she was a poet, and I think that's dead right." [13] After seeing a revival of the play, an Evening Standard reviewer Annie Ferguson wrote "How shrill and silly the 1995 hullabaloo and hysteria seemed last night when Blasted returned to the Royal Court. It is, and always was, a play with a fine, moral purpose." [3] It was listed in The Independent as one of the 40 best plays ever. [14]


  1. 1 2 "Blasted at The Royal Court Theatre". Royal Court Theatre Productions Limited. 12 January 1995. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  2. Kane, Sarah, Sarah Kane: Complete Plays. London: Methuen (2001), ISBN   0-413-74260-1
    BLASTED by Sarah Kane
    JERWOOD THEATRE DOWNSTAIRS 29 March - 28 April 2001"
    . Royal Court Theatre Productions Limited. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  4. Gardner, Lyn (20 February 2008). "Blasted". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  5. Brantley, Ben (2008), "Humanity Gets Only a Bit Part", The New York Times, retrieved 1 January 2015, Now "Blasted", whose author died a suicide in 1999, has finally arrived in New York in a first-rate production that opened Thursday night at the Soho Rep on Walker Street, filling a significant gap in the history of contemporary theater here.
  6. "Blasted named Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre – Laurence Olivier Awards". 13 March 2011. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012. The Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted has been crowned 2011’s Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Kane’s brutal play, most certainly not one for the faint hearted, played at the West London venue in the autumn of 2010, once again reminding theatregoers of the groundbreaking talent lost when Kane committed suicide in 1999. Lyric Hammersmith Artistic Director Sean Holmes directed the production that starred Danny Webb, Lydia Wilson and Aidan Kelly. The play opens in a hotel room where troubled young woman Cate spends the night with a racist, misogynist, violent journalist. It turns on its head when a soldier bursts into the room, bringing with him an apocalyptic vision, and delivers a brutal comeuppance. The tale of rape, torture, cannibalism and murder triumphed in an eclectic category that also contained Soho theatre’s Moscow-set Ivan and the Dogs, the Royal Court’s Afghanistan drama The Empire and Chris Rolls’s production of Les Parents Terribles, which was staged at the Trafalgar Studios 2 as part of the Donmar Trafalgar season.
  7. Andrew Dickson. "Sarah Kane: a Blast from the past". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 July 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "BLASTED". TheaterArche (in German). 28 September 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  10. "Blasted by Sarah Kane". Mental Eclipse Theater House. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  11. "vienna theatre project". viennnatheatre. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  12. Graham Saunders Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes
  13. Simon Hattenstone,"A Sad Hurrah", Guardian 1 July 2000.
  14. "The 40 best plays to read before you die". The Independent. 18 August 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2020.


Related Research Articles

Sarah Kane English playwright

Sarah Kane was an English playwright, screenwriter and theatre director. She is known for her plays that deal with themes of redemptive love, sexual desire, pain, torture—both physical and psychological—and death. They are characterised by a poetic intensity, pared-down language, exploration of theatrical form and, in her earlier work, the use of extreme and violent stage action.

4.48 Psychosis is the final play by British playwright Sarah Kane. It was her last work, first staged at the Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 23 June 2000, directed by James Macdonald, nearly one and a half years after Kane's death on 20 February 1999. The play has no explicit characters or stage directions; this continues the style of her previous production entitled Crave. Stage productions of the play vary greatly, therefore, with between one and several actors in performance; the original production featured three actors. According to Kane's friend and fellow-playwright David Greig, the title of the play derives from the time, 4:48 a.m., when Kane, in her depressed state, often woke.

In-yer-face theatre is a style and sensibility of drama that emerged in Great Britain in the 1990s. This term was borrowed by British theatre critic Aleks Sierz as the title of his book, In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today, first published by Faber and Faber in March 2001.

Royal Court Theatre Theatre in London, England

The Royal Court Theatre, at different times known as the Court Theatre, the New Chelsea Theatre, and the Belgravia Theatre, is a non-commercial West End theatre in Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England. In 1956 it was acquired by and remains the home of the English Stage Company and is notable for its contributions to contemporary theatre.

Kay Adshead is a poet, playwright, theatremaker, actress and producer.

Cleansed is the third play by the English playwright Sarah Kane. It was first performed in 1998 at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs in London. The play is set in a university which is operating as "an institution designed to rid society of its undesirables" where "a group of inmates try to save themselves through love" while under the rule of the sadistic Tinker. When the play premiered at the Royal Court in April 1998, Kane played the part of Grace for the last three performances because of an injury that the original actress suffered.

Lyric Theatre (Hammersmith)

The Lyric Theatre, also known as the Lyric Hammersmith, is a theatre in King Street, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which takes pride in its original, "groundbreaking" productions.

Soho Repertory Theatre

The Soho Repertory Theatre, known as Soho Rep, is an American Off-Broadway theater company based in New York City which is notable for producing avant-garde plays by contemporary writers. The company, described as a "cultural pillar", is currently located in a 65-seat theatre in the TriBeCa section of lower Manhattan. The company has won multiple prizes and earned critical acclaim, including numerous Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Drama Critics' Circle Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and awards from The New York Times. A recent highlight was winning the Drama Desk Award for Sustained Achievement for "nearly four decades of artistic distinction, innovative production, and provocative play selection." Prominent artists who have worked with the group include Reed Birney, Steve Buscemi, Jonathan Frakes, Allison Janney, Mark Margolis, Steve Mellor, Tim Blake Nelson, Ed O'Neill, Will Patton, John C. Reilly, Bill Sadler, John Seitz, Kevin Spacey, and Kathleen Turner. Notable playwrights such as Zawe Ashton have launched new plays with the company.

Catherine Russell is a British stage, television and screen actress.

Shopping and Fucking is a 1996 play by English playwright Mark Ravenhill. It was Ravenhill's first full-length play. It received its first public reading at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 1995. It was performed in 1996 at the Royal Court Upstairs, before embarking on a national and international tour, co-produced by Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre.

Skin is an 11-minute short film directed by Vincent O'Connell and starring Ewen Bremner and Marcia Rose. Produced by Tapson/Steel Films for British Screen and Channel 4 Films, it was filmed in September 1995. The screenplay was written in the summer of that year by British playwright Sarah Kane.

Laura Wade is an English playwright.

Hugh Vanstone is one of the UK’s foremost lighting designers. He has lit more than 160 productions, working in all spheres of live performance lighting, as well as exhibitions and architectural projects. His career has taken him all over the world and his work has been recognised with many awards, including a Tony Award for his lighting of Matilda the Musical, and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Lighting Design in 1999, 2001 and 2004.

Sean Holmes is a British theatre director and former Artistic Director of Lyric Hammersmith.

Sarah Benson

Sarah Benson is a British director of avant-garde theatre productions based in New York. As a Director of the Soho Rep, a lower Manhattan-based theatre company with an "audacious taste in plays", she is notable for her "commitment to adventurous new plays with an experimental bent". She has been at the company since 2007, and during her tenure, the company has won numerous Obie awards and Drama Desk nominations.

Lydia Wilson is an English actress. Since graduating in 2009 from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she has performed in numerous television and theatre productions including the Olivier Award winning Blasted by Sarah Kane in 2010 at the Lyric Theatre.

Breathing Corpses is a 2005 play by the British playwright Laura Wade which first premiered at the Royal Court Theatre.

The Low Road is a 2013 play by the American playwright Bruce Norris. It premiered from 23 March to 11 May 2013 at the Royal Court Theatre in London, in a production directed by Dominic Cooke and with a cast including Bill Paterson, Johnny Flynn, Kobna-Holdbrook Smith, Simon Paisley Day, Elizabeth Berrington, Ian Gelder, Ellie Kendrick and John Ramm.

James Macdonald is a British theatre and film director who is best known for his work with contemporary writers such as Caryl Churchill. He was associate and deputy director of The Royal Court from 1992–2006. There he staged the premiere of Sarah Kane's Blasted (1995), her highly controversial debut which sparked a Newsnight debate on BBC Television. He also directed the premiere of Kane's Cleansed (1998) and 4.48 Psychosis which opened after her suicide.

Anne-Louise Sarks is an Australian theatre director, writer and actor.