Timidity has no place in this world. Sarah Kane’s final play before she committed suicide in 1999 is many things but it is not nice, nor is it gentle. It’s a drowning woman’s last grasping, a desperate cresting, a moment of clear-eyed self-exploration before the flood.
Although Samuel Miller’s production is never less than competent and has a surface gloss, it lacks rawness and rage. It leaves its audience’s guts untwisted. Similarly Charlotte Donachie’s central performance is composed and measured, warm and human, but lacks necessary bite. Ugliness is notable by its absence and the production seems to speak Kane’s words without feeling them. Donachie is interrogated, analysed, subjected to the suffocating blanket of medication, but even when she bucks and struggles, there is an emotional barrier which remains in place throughout; there is little sense of descent. Faye Bradley’s set with its naked bulbs and illuminated Hirst pillboxes is also a little too neat, too politely generic.
Miller’s fragmented production contains one striking moment where this gloss is pierced - it is when the cast members circle Donachie and ink her skin, marking her arms with black insect scrawl, making the internal visible. But for the most part the production pulls its punches, inflicting very few bruises along the way.