Crave is a visual poem: lines finishing before they’ve barely begun, sliding out of mouths and crashing onto the moving floor. Words pile on top of each other like bodies, each one obscuring the next, each one giving new weight to the last. Over 50 minutes Sarah Kane’s text scaffolds a bleak world, shaped in the darkness. Fragments of story are pushed into place, then left jutting out and falling inwards. Kane erects a nihilistic vision of love, only for it to be ripped apart and buried underground after it collapses.
Tinuke Craig’s production is seismic; bodies loom large on stage and again larger still on the huge screen. Craig has an incredible eye for elegant, playful visuals that I first saw in random/generations in 2018 – the striking, bright blue set of that show is replaced here with Alex Lowde’s monochromatic, grayscale landscape. The actors stand on treadmills: four bodies walk forward, only to be pulled back with ever changing speed. That monotonous pull back and forth is dizzying; Craig never lets us sit still in this show, our eyes constantly moving, our brains constantly turning to make sense of the cacophony.
Ravi Deepres’s visuals on the screen move us closer still to these characters (these characters that we don’t really, can’t ever really know). In a mixture of live feed and recorded video, the camera scans over their bodies, their faces – each one leaving behind an echo, a stain. Deepres’s film design, alongside Lowde’s set, brings forth the minute, vulnerable details needed for this play to make sense. Kane gives us the inner workings, and the rest is up to us. Craig manages to craft a story out of the jigsaw puzzle pieces of memory that Kane scatters over the page, fitting them together and tracing our hands over the grooves, showing us the outline.
Anna Clock’s sound design moves us through the emotional tunnel of C, B, M, and A (Kane’s four lost souls). Clock gives us something to hang on to in the storm. But it is in the silence that you can feel the floor give way – Clock uses it sparingly but when everything stops it is like the weight that was on my chest lifts a little. Joshua Pharo’s four strip lights create corridors – room to move in two directions but still claustrophobic. The only way is forwards – to let go is to be engulfed in darkness, is to be lost. The dark edges of the stage cage in these characters – they constantly claw at themselves and the floor, as if they can wriggle their way out of it all.
Erin Doherty’s C is mesmerising – rasping and tightly wound, she never sits still, never lets us forget she’s there. A self-contained boiling pot, she is offset by the effortless gravity of Alfred Enoch (B) and Wendy Kweh (M). The telling of their story is in knotted hands and clenched jaws, always yearning for something they can’t decide if they want. Jonathan Slinger (A) is further away from me, but his strength comes in his monologue about love. He expresses a tainted, stained love that can’t exist without its opposite. The actors in Crave have to be able to carve a recognisable outline out of an opaque text, and these four do it incredibly well.
Dressed in tracksuits and pyjamas, the characters are shadows of themselves, echoed in the high res imprints behind them. As the stage revolves, each blends into the other. They intertwine through the past, through memory rather than in actuality – they are stained onto each other. Even though the four bodies stood so far apart on stage, their words tie them together. It is as if in their collective chorus they manage to find a way to touch.
Crave is on at Chichester Festival Theatre until 4th November – it’s available both in-person and as a livestream. More info and tickets here.