Biography of Sarah Kane

Sarah Kane was an English playwright known for exploring controversial and intense themes in her plays. She was lumped in with the "in-yer-face" theatre movement by Aleks Sierz, while others have seen her work as connected to expressionist plays and Jacobean tragedy. While her plays were dismissed by many critics after their premieres, they have earned more widespread acclaim since her death.

Kane was born to evangelical parents in Essex, but rejected Christianity not long after adolescence. She studied playwriting at Bristol University and the University of Birmingham, and while she initially wanted to be a poet, she was soon drawn to playwriting. Her first play was Blasted, which she started as a student, and which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London, directed by James Macdonald. It was panned by the critics, who saw it as gratuitously provocative, but other playwrights, including Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill, came to its defense. Kane spoke about the play herself in plain terms: "The logical conclusion of the attitude that produces an isolated rape in England is the rape camps in Bosnia and the logical conclusion to the way society expects men to behave is war."

Her next work was Skin, an eleven-minute screenplay about a violent relationship between a skinhead and a black woman. Then came Phaedra's Love, loosely based on Seneca's play, the closest Kane came to writing a "comedy." Cleansed premiered in 1998, also directed by James Macdonald, and was based on a line from Roland Barthes: "being in love is like being in Auschwitz."

Crave premiered in 1998, and was less violent then her other work. Her last play was 4.48 Psychosis, a fragmented piece largely without plot or character, and was largely based on Kane's own struggles with psychosis.

Shortly after 4.48 Psychosis premiered, Kane took an overdose of prescription drugs that landed her in the hospital. Two days after that, she hanged herself by her shoelace in the bathroom, after many years of struggling with depression.

Study Guides on Works by Sarah Kane

Highly controversial in its time, Blasted is British author Sarah Kane's first play. It premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre. It has many shocking and rather gruesome elements, including rape, cannibalism, and suicide, elements which...