Cleansed is classic Sarah Kane: disturbing, difficult, packed with violence and potentially quite profound. Fear No Colours’ production makes a good effort to make sense of a play that seems to revel in hiding its purpose. In a place that is a torturous dungeon, an asylum and a prison all at the same time, Kane’s play examines love in it’s many forms through the eyes of people who are in love. There are some high-quality performances from members of the company here. 

The individual threads of Cleansed are what give it coherence

Siofra Dromgoole plays Grace with thoughtfulness and variation, as the character searches for the love of her dead brother, Graham. Her vocal performance in particular is varied and measured, helping us grasp Grace’s representation of love perhaps the best - the love of familiarity and comfort. 

As Grace’s incestous relationship with Graham plays out on stage, it is the playfulness, contentedness and desperation with which Dromgoole delivers the lines that help us to see past revulsion and into what the relationship represents. Grief, loss and a desire to retain the memory of someone are all involved here. Another strong performance comes from Raymond Wilson, playing the young Robin. His unrequited, eager-to-please portrayal accurately captures the love of a boy, and he brings energy to a production that has a habit of dragging slightly.

Fear No Colours deserve a lot of credit for their efforts on this production - syringes of blood sprayed onto areas are cleverly used to represent amputation and injury, as the script calls for tongues, hands and feet to be removed. Their decision not to have clear scene changes though is less successful. While the rapid succession of scenes in the script challenges the possibility of conventional set changes, this production often simply leaves actors lying on the stage until their next section. 

Their groaning and shifting, while admirable in its dedication to characters, is a distraction from what is supposed to be the central action on stage. The lack of clear sections make the play hard to follow. A decision to include, during a blackout, a quote from Kane about how the violence in her plays is just “the newspapers with all the boring bits cut out” serves only to draw attention to the fact that the production fails to connect the violence on stage with the real world. Some of the right ingredients are here for a truly impressive production of Cleansed

Ultimately though, a production like this has to make some sort of sense - have something that an audience can cling onto. The individual threads of Cleansed are what give it some coherence, and in this production they seem to mix and mingle too readily. Sometimes they come together too quickly, giving us no time to absorb what’s happening. At other times, fumbling in the dark seems to last too long. The overall effect is to produce the feeling Kane often produces: confusion. There is some power here, and some poignancy, but it needs a little more clarity. 

Reviews by Andrew Forbes

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The Blurb

Sarah Kane's darkly passionate play turns the heart into a torture camp where losing love is a fate worse than death. And this love is the most violent thing in the world. Loss of love is the loss of self, and anything may be endured to avoid that. In a torture institution of the heart, the indestructibility of love creates a waking nightmare where not even death offers a way out. Explore the violence of love and love's catastrophe in a language that pushes the boundaries of theatrical representation to the absolute extreme. Welcome to our sensible hell.

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