Cravings that save and haunt

Actor and director Lefteris Voyiatzis has once more plunged into the painful world of Sarah Kane, the British playwright whom he introduced to the Greek public three years ago (in the aftermath of her suicide), when he produced her play «Blasted.» The play was discussed a lot, though not as much as in Britain, where it met with stormy reactions, as was the case with each of the few plays that Kane wrote in her short life. «Although recently, when all her plays were put on stage once more, even her harshest critics changed their minds,» said Voyiatzis. Voyiatzis has now produced «Crave» at the Odou Kykladon Theater, translated by poet Jenny Mastoraki. The stage is covered with dirty water and floating rubbish, apart from four dry spots where the actors stand. «Crave,» Kane’s fourth play and, according to Voyiatzis, her most pessimistic, is also the last of her plays she saw on stage, as her final work «4.48 Psychosis» was only produced after her death. What is the meaning of «Crave» here? It has the meaning of a strong desire, but also of deprivation, at least this is how it was presented in France. To calm down, you must erase all these inner cravings. What sort of cravings? Love is a craving and so are life and sex. Tenderness, love and desire are all great things but they leave you disabled, as A, the character I play, also says. He is just «A»? Yes, all four characters, two men and two women, only have initials. A and M, who are older and B and C, who are younger. This has to do with Kane’s unique use of time; she used the future tense for things that have already happened, which is both ironic and heartbreaking. What is the relationship between these characters? Kane does not define that. Her creation has no time or space. Who are these people, are they alive or dead and who are they talking to? We don’t know. The characters could be any of us, but they could also represent the different aspects of just one person. There are sentences that sometimes connect these people, but sometimes, as Jenny Mastoraki nicely noticed, it’s as if one character is talking through the other. In life there are also things that affect us and, without realizing it, we acquire pieces of somebody else’s soul. How did you see the characters in your mise en scene? They have at times been presented as two couples, a younger and an older one, or as the same couple at different ages. I think it is also very interesting to see them as the members of a family: father, mother, son and daughter, but I wouldn’t like to dwell on it too much. Kane didn’t want to define their relationship. But she had once said in an interview that A could mean Author, creator, but also Abuser, a tyrant, a rapist, an assassin, or even Antichrist, which is where we see her deep relationship with religion until the age of 17. M, played by Aglaia Papa, could stand for Mother. C, the girl, played by Angeliki Papathemeli, is haunted by a traumatic past, maybe a rape she suffered as a child, because there are such references that cause acute reactions. B, the Boy, played by Vassilis Boulougouris, is a modern young man who smokes and drinks a lot, commits extreme acts and makes fun of others. But he is more than that; a lot is hidden in his relationship with M, but also with C. And this is just an example of how the characters and their different aspects could be presented. Does this play contain violence and shocking scenes like «Blasted»? Violence, blood and scandal do not exist here, either visually or verbally. Violence in this play can be located elsewhere, it’s the result of the lives these characters have led. Besides, none of Kane’s plays contain violence for the sake of violence. That is why it’s so difficult to put her plays on stage: It’s difficult to render things that the audience is used to seeing directly and not in metaphors. What attitude must one adopt before coming to see the play? The viewer must get rid of any prejudices. People might not grasp everything the first time, but it’s worth testing themselves. In real life, we are moved by detached things: We might witness something but remember something else. That’s not what we’re used to in art and we seek some order, but this helps us and motivates our being. Apart from the absence of violence, does «Crave» differ in other ways from «Cleansed» and Kane’s other plays? «Crave» was a radical change of form for Kane, which she completed with her next and final play, «4.48.» Apart from the scenes of violence, her previous plays also included many stage directions, a lot of them impossible. In «Phaedra’s Love,» for instance, a vulture is supposed to fly down and eat Hippolytus’ guts. There are no directions for «Crave.» Kane is searching for a new form, mostly through language. The play is heading toward an abstract form; that is why rhythm is dominant in both language and body movements because, as Kane said, the play is only completed on stage. It needs actors’s bodies as much as their voice. Did Kane manage to complete her search for a new form? We cannot know where it would have ended up, but her progress was amazing. From the Ibsen-like aspects of the first part of «Blasted» to the absurd qualities of the second part and the Beckettesque qualities of the third part, she created «Crave» and «4.48» which have a different form altogether. It is amazing how that young girl managed to so greatly evolve her style in just five plays. In a few years, she was able to create a play both specific and abstract at the same time! But she wasn’t just any important modern playwright, she had the way of thinking of classical playwrights. «Crave» is full of references, extracts, songs, parts of the Bible and puns. It is as if a breeze from T.S. Eliot’s «Waste Land» blows through it. And did she turn all that into theater? Who says theater is only what we conceive of as theater? Did anyone think the world would be like it is today? And who knows what it will be like tomorrow? How can theater remain the same when everything else changes?