Chichester Festival Theatre honours a great loss, a great talent, a wicked wit

Crave – which played Chichester Festival Theatre last year and returns now as a streamed recording – comes from a playwright who has a special resonance for CFT artistic director  Daniel Evans.

Sarah Kane
Sarah Kane

Daniel was in two world premieres of Sarah Kane’s plays, one before her death, one after her passing.

Crave was a play which struck a chord with its live audiences in the main house last year before the pandemic shut the theatre down mid-run. It also struck a chord with people around the world as a live stream – as it is sure to do again with the run of a new edit of the piece which the CFT are showing – with remastered sound and incorporating new footage – on demand from May 19-29.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

In the piece, in a damaged world, four characters search for the light in a heart-rending, funny, kind and cruel meditation on the meaning of love. For many in the audience, the pandemic added to the poignancy and significance of it all.

Daniel is fascinated to see how different its reception will be now.

“It feels like we are in a very different place to where we were last October. Last October it really felt like we were in the middle of something. I am sure this time it is going to feel very different. You could really feel the depth of the angst and the anxiety.”

Inevitably for Daniel, it also stirs memories of Sarah who took her own life on February 20 1999 at the age of 28.

“She was quite a complicated person, but not in the way you would think. She was very funny. She was very clever. She had a wicked sense of humour, and I don’t mean wicked in a modern sense. She was mischievous. And she was an avid reader. She would have by her bed Shakespeare and political essays. Her knowledge was very broad; her humour was very witty. And she could play with language. I was in two world premiers of her plays at the Royal Court.”

First was Cleansed (1998) and then, following Sarah’s death, 4.48 Psychosis (2000).

“People feel like 4.48 was a suicide note. I don’t think it was.

“When we were doing Cleansed she took me to her old hospital ward where she had spent some time and I went back to her flat and had some toast and chatted.

“She did have mental health issues. She did have challenges. I remember I was at the National when I was told (about her death), and I just remember the immense sadness, the loss. I felt gratitude for her career and short body of work but also sadness for what she would have written.

“But I brought one of her plays to the main stage (at Chichester) – and I will take that!”

The film of Crave, currently streaming, features Erin Doherty in her Chichester debut. Erin was Princess Anne in series three and four of The Crown. Alfred Enoch also appeared at Chichester for the first time. Having played Dean Thomas in seven Harry Potter films, his theatre credits include Red (West End & NT Live), Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse), Tree (Young Vic) and Timon of Athens (National Theatre). Television includes Sherlock and How To Get Away With Murder. Wendy Kweh’s theatre credits include The Welkin and Top Girls at the National Theatre, Julius Caesar at The Bridge and Snow in Midsummer for the RSC. Jonathan Slinger returns to Chichester where he last appeared in Yes, Prime Minister (2010).