PDF Violence in American Drama: Essays on Its Staging, Meanings and Effects

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Then, moments later, the third and final character in the play arrives, a soldier from an unknown country, hungry, participating in some kind of military takeover of Leeds. For her part, Cate escapes out the bathroom window. As the soldier urinates on the bed and announces that they hold the town now, a bomb explodes in the room, knocking out both men.

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When they recover, the soldier, with a strange calm and friendliness, proceeds to interrogate Ian. While the introduction of this element from the outside world seems to ground the play more concretely in the realities of contemporary international events such as the civil war in Bosnia, it does not make the play more easily locatable in time and space. We are in Leeds, after all, and Ian is unable to figure out what the sides are here The arrival of the soldier undoubtedly politicizes and historicizes the play in some brute manner, and it has been well documented that Kane took this abrupt narrative turn in the play due to her own shock at the events taking place in Bosnia during the writing of the play:.

What's the point of carrying on? So this is what I wanted to write about, yet somehow this story about the man and the woman is still attracting me.

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In this, it is as if anothe Interview with Rebellato, quoted in Saunders, As such, this brokenness emerges as nothing so much as a deep self-consciousness on the part of the play. Probably, by the end, we should be wondering if the first half was a dream. As in all arts this base rests finally in the immediacy of perception's encounter with a world.

The actor takes us into a world within the world itself. At bottom, it is not a matter of the illusory, the mimetic, or the representational, but of a certain kind of actual , of having something before one's vision—and in the theater one's hearing—to which we join our being. In Blasted , we have no frameworks to explain away what is happening: There are no metanarratives allowed here with which to contain the action. We have no choice but to accept this world's actuality, its concreteness , without recourse to the generic continuity by means of which we might distance ourselves from the immediacy of the theatrical experience.

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The soldier doesn't clarify for Ian just what is happening, but instead subjects Ian to a long list of visceral atrocities that he has either witnessed, inflicted, or facilitated during his military service, including the blinding, rape, and death of his own lover at the hands of soldiers. Importantly, what the soldier wants is that someone tell his story, someone who will be a witness to him. Having found a reporter, he demands that the reporter report. His rape of Ian makes it clear that, in the soldier's mind, he is reliving his passion for his lover; throughout the act he weeps, smelling Ian's hair as it reminds him of the girl's, kissing him tenderly.

Even the subsequent violence he performs on Ian, namely to suck out each of Ian's eyes in turn and eat them, seems to be performed not out of a desire to hurt Ian but because, on one hand, the soldier is hungry while, on the other hand, his lover's eyes were eaten by the man who killed her. The repetition of the act seems to give the soldier a cathartic release from life as, following this, he shoots himself in the head.

As in all tragic reversals, Ian's peripeteia is full of dramatic irony: It seems that since Ian will not open his tabloid journalist's eyes to the atrocities of war, he loses his eyes altogether.

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The loss of the eyes is, again, an element of corporeal suffering on the stage that both asserts the raw physicality, the phenomenal immediacy of the stage and also insists on the semiotic coding of the body, if only due to the long dramatic heritage of blindness as a visual discourse of the stage. Stinking of mortality, blinded like Oedipus, Gloucester, or Bond's Lear, Ian finds that his stay in the hotel room gradually becomes a crucible in which his body is metaphorically ground down into a state of tragic abjection. Yet what makes the play a particularly contemporary form of tragedy is the complication of its plot and its ambivalence toward the traditional tragic paradigm that human suffering is somehow ennobling.

Ian's desire to end his life precipitates a further dialogue on the possibility of life after death that anticipates his own life-in-death. They're dead. That's not dying, it's fainting.

When you die, it's the end. Foakes London: Arden Shakespeare, ; and A. Toward the end of the play, the grotesque nature of the tragic body in Blasted is driven home in a series of aphoristic tableaus of Ian, alone on stage, suffering a temporal protraction, a staging of the transition into Cate's dream space, a slow accretion into death. In these isolated stations, Ian masturbates, tries to strangle himself to death, defecates, laughs hysterically, sleeps and has nightmares, weeps and takes comfort in the corpse of the soldier, starves, and finally consumes the corpse of the infant that Cate has buried in the floorboards.

Ian's suffering lies in a state somewhere between tragedy and satire; there is as much derision and revulsion encouraged here as there is pity, as his abject state strips away his humanity to the point where he engages in cannibalism, a moment that caused the only outright audience gasps in the production I saw, even though it only involved Ian tearing briefly at the bundle's shroud with his teeth.

Such an emotional, affective response deserves consideration. What are we responding to in the theatre when we react with revulsion to such indirect indication? We know that it is not real, and it is highly unlikely that it will remind the average audience member of a similar experience drawn from life. Our affective responses here are purely fictional; they are valid, though virtual. Interestingly, Kane points out that the reading of such onstage pathos is more visceral than the actual theatre experience.

When you see it he's clearly not eating the baby. It's absolutely fucking obvious. This is a theatrical image.


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He's not doing it at all. On one hand, they are infamous for their gory, visceral, horror-show qualities. Yet on the other hand, to dwell on these sensationalistic elements alone seems to miss the point of Kane's dramaturgy. Take the aspects of Cleansed that seem unstageable: the severed limbs, the rats carrying away those limbs, the surgical attachment of body parts.

How do you realise a thing like that?

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Which was a pity, because it's a very good gag, and nothing more than Ian's just deserts. In keeping with the idea that the representation of the body is not so much corporeally as aesthetically grounded in Blasted , consider the image that is the launching point for this enquiry. If that death with relief is anything at all, it is a symbolic decapitation, one that expresses visually an artistic truth: Ian becomes just a head, relieved to have severed himself from the sufferings of the body, the flesh. He seems to die because he performs a theatrical decapitation of himself.

There is really no other accounting for the image: Why does he crawl into the floor? Why is he able to die, now, with relief? And even if one were to be literal-minded, one might ask how he could possibly entrench his whole body in the floorboards of the hotel room. The point is irrelevant: What matters is that Ian has buried himself. As such, it bears an oblique relation to the Freudian notion of the uncanny, another ambiguous phenomenon caught between life and death, the strange and the familiar.

And it is here that the play situates itself most firmly within the heritage of Beckett. It is as if Hamm in Endgame had managed to clamber out of his chair and lower himself into Winnie's hole in Happy Days. He's dead, he's in hell—and it's exactly the same place he was in before, except that now it's raining. When I watched the blood being washed away by the rain I saw just how Christ-like the image is. Which isn't to say that Ian isn't punished.

He is, of course, he dies, and he finds that the thing he has ridiculed—life after death—really does exist.

And that life is worse than where he was before. It really is hell.