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Visceral Theater


Too often this occurs and by this, I mean audience members walking out because the content of the play is far more than they bargained for, and this article discusses the mass exodus of audience members leaving a production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed. However this article does more than simply ponder the query of how much violence is allowable onstage, what kind of violence is permissible, the moral and ethical questions regarding the violence onstage, etc.

The article places some attention on the actual violence being staged however the point that is being emphasized is the role of the female voice and how what Sarah Kane, as a woman, is demanding within her play is “too much” for the audience. Unapologetically, the writer doesn’t fall into the trap of explaining how theaters must think about the audience – although still highly important for a commercial theater – or the “inappropriate” nature of the violence onstage, but instead chooses to question the audience’s response.

The point of questioning becomes the audience’s motivations for leaving the theater in a way that demands introspection in terms of how we respond to not only violence onstage but also to who is presenting that violence:

“The production of Cleansed at the National Theatre marks the debut of Kane’s work on the national stage, which was generally hailed as long overdue. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 director Katie Mitchell said: ‘There isn’t a big tradition of putting the violence of atrocity on stage in Britain. We’re afraid of that dark female voice that insists we examine pornography and violence. We just don’t feel comfortable being asked to do those things, particularly by a woman.'”


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