Picture of Sarah Kane

I knew Sarah Kane only briefly, and in a very particular context. I was brought in to direct the 'workshop' of her play 'Blasted', which was at the time only part-written, as the final element in her MA in Playwriting at Birmingham University in 1993. I knew all about how extreme she was seen as being before I even met her, having been taken on one side and warned that she was 'difficult', and that the piece was 'problematic'. I think this made me feel a little warm to her - anyone that the authorities felt that about must be fighting the fight of the righteous, somehow. I wasn't sure what I thought about the play. Sarah was serious about it, without being solemn, and the contact with her in rehearsals was certainly enjoyable - as well as challenging. I took the line that my task was to use any skills I had as a director to make the piece she had written work, in the way that was intended. We took it slow, worked with unusual focus with the student actors, and played it head on, relentlessly, with the same kind of slow, seething intensity and bleakness that was there in the text. The effect on the performance day was quite remarkable. It served to make every other piece of drama presented there on the day - there were several - invisible. The scouts from the front line of the new writing world sharpened pens and sought Sarah out for conversation. It was no surprise to anyone that she was snapped up, and that success was beckoning. No surprise, but something of a shock…….

 

I missed the play at the Royal Court. I had intended to go - Sarah had invited me, but by the time I got round to ringing the theatre, the shit had hit the fan, and everywhere else for that matter, and tickets were unobtainable. I regret now that I was too embarrassed to ring her. Even when she sent me the script, all I managed was a short thank you note - I was too busy I think….

 

I met her one more time, by chance. An extraordinary chance in fact. I was visiting Bristol, and decided to go to the house I was born in - the first and only time for thirty five years. I met Sarah in the road. The Fosseway - a cul de sac in Clifton. She too was just visiting, showing someone the house she had lived in as a student. It was as striking a coincidence as my first contact with her had been striking.

 

And then the third time she comes into my life is from the front page of the newspaper, and the third time I find it hard to get her from my mind, it is the grizzly, vivid image of her hanging. She was a really remarkable person, damaged and compelling. It wasn't a surprise that she should die young and violently. But it has been a terrible shock……

Peter Wynne-Willson

Birmingham