City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Crave Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 14 August 2009

Crave by Royal Holloway Theatre
Show details
C soco
Royal Holloway Theatre
Running time: 
Tasmin Bell (director), Ben Karakashian (producer), Andrew Sinclair (lighting designer).
Steve Wickenden (B), Lewis Collier (A), E J Martin (M), Anna McKiernan (C).

Since its first performance at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 1998, Sarah Kane's Crave has become a classic and a Fringe perennial.  There are two new productions this year.  One of these is by The Royal Holloway Theatre, created by "organically rehearsing the play with ideas being injected at every stage".

It's a play that gives directors a lot of freedom, with no more stage directions than "a beat" or "silence" in the portrayal of the four nameless characters (A, B, C and M).  While it seems to invite a "director's theatre" approach, Kane was very suspicious of people tampering with her work.  Thankfully the production is faithful to the script, which she regarded as perfect in respect of the writing.

The set (drawn from a line in the script) is The Florent diner - a popular 24-hour restaurant in New York's meat packing district.  It's a good choice, redolent with the isolation and loneliness depicted in Edward Hopper's famous painting, "Nighthawks".

Other than the set, the production follows the more conventional line of having the actors fairly static - only in the later stages do the more allied B and M move to the central table, flanking C, while A is always kept behind her at the counter.  It eschews theatricalities of other stagings, which have ranged from having the actors chase around, stare into mirrors or eat jelly.

The four characters move through a poetic verbal ballet of love, loss and longing. An experiment in rhythm and meaning through rhyme, the words are poignant and painful and like the characters, in turn sadistic and tender. While some productions are visceral, searing, shouted affairs this is more akin to a lullaby drifting into darkness.

This is a good, professional production and the work clearly touches nerves in the credible actors, but it never fully communicates the power or the rhythm of the words and misses on the caustic humour.  It fails to forge an intense bond between the audiences and performers and it doesn't burn into the mind, as Sarah Kane would have wanted.  The director states that "the production you see on the stage is just the beginning of the stories we have discovered within the play".  There is yet more to be teased out.

Times:5-31 August, 1.55 pm.