Crave at the Barbican
“I hate these words that keep me alive
I hate these words that won’t let me die
expressing my pain without easing it.”
The tortured and brilliant playwright Sarah Kane considered Crave her most despairing work. In this production by contemporary dance stalwarts Julie Cunningham & Company, its bleakness and honesty is showcased with pared-back clarity. The intimate Pit, nestled two floors below the main Barbican stage, provides a fitting venue.
Kane’s script is unconventional in form. It presents four characters, each named with only a letter, who put out a collection of seemingly random lines offering no clear narrative. In this interpretation, four actors share the stage with an equal number of dancers; while the former take on distinct characters, the latter respond to the playwright’s words with movement.
Julie Cunningham, who performs in the piece too, has choreographed an anthology of movement triggered not only by the words’ meaning but by their rhythm and assonance. Contorted, awkward bodies echo confessions of anxiety. The sudden momentum of the dancers running across the stage, only to catch themselves again, underlines the speaker’s fleeting flights of hope. Rare moments of slow, graceful unison between the dancers bring a sense of calm – a troubled mind momentarily finding balance.
The most substantial monologue, delivered with effusive warmth by Anna Martine Freeman, is a declaration of love to another woman. “And I want to (…) give you my clothes and tell you I like your shoes and sit on the steps while you take a bath.” It’s a poignant moment: despite following on from references to rape, childhood abuse and existential angst, it’s this yearning for the happy minutiae that cuts the most desperate, desolate atmosphere.
The final image, in which two of the dancers gaze at the dwindling shaft of light fanning outward from the edge of a doorway, leaves its audience a melancholy and transcendently beautiful final image.
Photo: Chris Nash
Crave is at the Barbican from 10th until 13th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Julie Cunningham & Company visit their website here.