Two exciting young actors have taken on quite a challenge by performing two plays in the current Sheffield Theatres Sarah Kane season.
Pearl Chanda and Tom Mothersdale co-star with two other actors in Crave and Psychosis 4.48, the final plays written by Sarah Kane.
Kane, who only wrote six plays before she killed herself aged 28 in 1999, caused a sensation with her first play, Blasted, which features violence, sexual violence and even cannibalism.
That notoriety threatened to overshadow her other work, which is equally hard hitting, but has now been recognised as exciting and innovative.
Pearl said: “In Crave I play C. She is a girl who’s been really badly abused. She’s suffered the trauma of this abuse. When you meet her at the beginning, she has a very acute sense of ...
“The play is her journey in finding out what this abuse was. Sarah Kane was interested in how the domestic was a global thing.
“One person’s experience of abuse or trauma was also an indication of everyone as a society in the world, which is why her plays are more than just a girl being abused. That’s why they’ve stayed in the canon so long.I think she is brilliant.”
Pearl first came across Sarah Kane’s work when she was at school but she wasn’t a fan straightaway.
She said: “It took me a while to get into her work because of the suspicion that she was trying to be boisterous and just sticking her fingers up at the system.
“I did my first professional job with Catherine Cusack, who told me how funny Sarah Kane was and how loving and funny her plays were. I revisited them with that in mind.
“I love her now where I was sceptical before.”
Pearl only left drama school in 2013 and, as well as theatre, she has appeared in the film Mr Turner and also has a role in Arthur & George, the ITV drama about Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as George’s sister Maud.
She is a big fan of actor Martin Clunes, who plays the writer: “He is just the most wonderful, generous, funny, warm, charismatic human being.”
Tom Mothersdale plays B in Crave. He said the play tackles “love, abusive love and addictive love”. He added: “The character of B is dealing with the addictive side of love and addiction in general.”
Like Pearl, he came across the work of Sarah Kane early on as her work is used by a lot of drama school hopefuls for audition pieces. He said: “It really engaged me and I loved it from an early age. It’s such an honour to do it professionally.”
He added: “I think she’s one of the most important writers of all time. I think she is brave, I think she is funny, daring, bold and theatrical. I think she is amazing.
“One of the obvious things to focus on is that there is a theme of violence throughout her plays but I think all her plays, every single one, deals with love.
“A thing she is trying to get across is the theme of love. That is what struck me most about her writing. People focus on the violence and shock factor but they don’t think if it is definitely true.”
Tom said he was fascinated by how Sarah Kane used her own experience of struggling with mental health in Psychosis 4.48 to show what it felt like, while experimenting with the form and structure of plays at the same time.
“It’s a challenging thing to do, also to watch. There’s no formal structure like you usually would watch. She works to break as many boundaries as possible.”
Why should the audience go to see such difficult plays? “Because they’re really good, they’re really funny, I think. They’re really challenging and ask you questions that make you think.
“Her writing is like no other, there’s no wasted words in it. It really is such an experience to be in the theatre and hear those words being spoken.”
Crave and Psychosis 4.48 are at the Crucible Studio until Saturday. Box office: at the Crucible, online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.