'Out Vile Jelly': Sarah Kane's 'Blasted' Shakespeare's 'King Lear'

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Sarah Kane's notorious 1995 debut, Blasted, has been widely though belatedly recognized as a defining example of experiential or 'in-yer-face' theatre. However, Graham Saunders here argues that the best playwrights not only innovate in use of language and dramatic form, but also rewrite the classic plays of the past. He believes that too much stress has been placed on the play's radical structure and contemporary sensibility, with the effect of obscuring the influence of Shakespearean tradition on its genesis and content. He clarifies Kane's gradually dawning awareness of the influence of Shakespeare's King Lear on her work and how elements of that tragedy were rewritten in terms of dialogue, recast thematically, and reworked in terms of theatrical image. He sees Blasted as both a response to contemporary reality and an engagement with the history of drama. Graham Saunders is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and author of the first full-length study of Kane's work: 'Love Me or Kill Me': Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes (Manchester University Press, 2002). An earlier version of this article was given as a paper at the 'Crucible of Cultures: Anglophone Drama at the Dawn of a New Millennium' conference in Brussels, May 2001. Saunders is currently working on articles about Samuel Beckett and Edward Bond
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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