Sarah Kane's Blasted: "#MeToo, Syria, Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro are all part of the chaos"
Director Jenny Sealey on the continuing resonance of Sarah Kane's first full-length play, and the challenges and rewards of creating a bilingual production.
My first task when I joined Graeae in 1997 was to co-direct The Tempest with RADA Head of Acting Jennie Buckman, also with a combination of student and Graeae actors. It is poetically painful that I return to RADA just days after Jennie leaving us. My learning from her was profound and has stood me in good stead over the years and it is with her wisdom I take on Blasted.
Graeae last staged Blasted in 2006. Directing it was one of those processes that has stayed with me, not least because of the challenge of placing complex abusive relationships on stage, but also the atrocities of war and the impact that conflict has on our society. #MeToo, Syria, Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro are all part of the chaos, corruption and brutality of this world, which makes Blasted as resonant today as it was when Kane wrote it and when I last directed it.
Edward Kemp asked me what play I would like to direct and in a heartbeat I said Blasted. The challenge this time is the same as before, but we are creating a bilingual production in spoken and signed language alongside live audio description using Kane’s stage directions as spoken by the actors.
The desire to work in this way is not just about access for Deaf audiences, but to use the process of translating the script into BSL (British Sign Language) to really challenge all the actors to share their understanding of the text, open up the physicality and style and to have a collective ownership of every nuance and beat. It is a theatrical form that pushes the claustrophobia of Kane’s words and exposes the reality that we are all Deaf / hearing / disabled / non disabled in the thick of it.
The design is part of the concept – this is every hotel, the ushers are every hotel staff, the events are everywhere day in and day out. There is no escape.
Jenny Sealey MBE
Blasted plays in RADA's GBS Theatre from 6-16 February. Visit the event page for more details and booking information.