In the film Annie Hall Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) observes: Sylvia Plath. Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality.

Sarah Kane, the author of Blasted, committed suicide in 1999 at the age of 28. She was a lesbian and suffered from depression, and productions of her six plays since her death seem tainted by a similarly misplaced romanticism that haunts Plath.

Kane’s work is shocking, controversial and uncompromising, we’re told, suggesting a dark vision granted legitimacy by Kane’s ultimate solution.

It ain’t necessarily so.

Blasted begins in a hotel room somewhere in England, in which a racist middle-aged journalist called Ian (Terry Serio) attempts to seduce his ex-girlfriend Cate (Kate Mulvaney). He rapes her, a soldier (Nick Coghlan) bursts in and a bomb destroys the room. Suddenly we’re in a warzone, perhaps in the Middle East.

Serio and Mulvaney give the strongest performances and are utterly believable as two vile and pitiful lost souls. Coghlan is less convincing as the disturbed soldier, as he reveals a tendency to drift into crazy acting, which is distracting at best.

As a treatise on male cruelty and power it’s brutal and sharp, although Ian’s rape at the hands of the soldier is something of a clich?as is Serio’s choice to squeal and whimper in a decidedly feminine manner. (Anal rape feminises the recipient, is the homophobic subtext.)

Eventually, however, the whole affair lost me completely. (Spoiler alert!) Perhaps it was the reference to a husband eating his dead wife’s leg. Or maybe it was when Ian, after having his eyes sucked out by the psychotic foot soldier, is forced to gnaw the flesh of a dead baby.

The work no longer seemed shocking, nor was it more complex than critics could cope with -“ as Harold Pinter suggested at the time.

The most likely possibility was that Blasted was -“ wait for it -“ just plain self-indulgent. This may be the most shocking conclusion of them all.

Blasted by Sarah Kane plays at the Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills, until 18 July. Phone 9699 3444.

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