Academic Graham Saunders assesses Sarah Kane

27th August 2009

Sarah Kane
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FOCUS ON KANE

Graham Saunders of Reading University talks to Aleks Sierz about his latest book, About Kane: The Playwright and the Work (Faber), which examines the output of Sarah Kane in the context of 1990s British theatre, and of her growing reputation. Recorded at Dewynters, London.

One of the things that has recently emerged in Kane studies is a re-evaluation of her as a female playwright.

Transcript

FOCUS ON KANE Graham Saunders of Reading University talks to Aleks Sierz about his latest book, About Kane: The Playwright and the Work (Faber), which examines the output of Sarah Kane in the context of 1990s British theatre, and of her growing reputation. Recorded at Dewynters, London.

Recorded: 27 August 2009

Transcribed by the V&A © This transcript is copyright of the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum. If you wish to refer to this in publication its reference is FOCUS ON KANE and you must quote the url in your address bar.

Aleks Sierz: Hello and welcome to theatreVOICE. I’m Aleks Sierz and I’m at the Dewynters Agency today with my guest, the academic and Sarah Kane expert, Graham Saunders. Saunders lectures in Theatre at the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at Reading University and his books include ‘Love Me or Kill Me’: Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes, which was published in 2002, as well as a study of Patrick Marber’s play Close, which was published by Continuum last year. Today we’ll be talking about his latest book, called About Kane: The Playwright and the Work, which has just been published earlier this month by Faber. Welcome to theatreVOICE Graham Saunders.

Graham Saunders: Thank you very much.

AS: Let’s start by asking the obvious question – why another book about Sarah Kane?

GS: Okay, well I suppose the flippant answer to that would be that Faber asked me to, but I first of all hesitated about writing another book on Kane, but the series itself interested me because it has a feature in this particular series, its other volumes include ones on David Hare, O’Casey…

AS: Samuel Beckett…

GS: Samuel Beckett and people like that. But they have a section in those volumes, where they allow the playwright to speak for themselves, they draw from interviews, and one of the things about Sarah Kane is that she was a very articulate speaker about not only her own work but theatre in general. And this appealed to me because by the time, really I suppose a couple of years after Blasted, she was already starting to become colonized by the academic community, and a lot of, I suppose, readings were imposed upon her work, particularly biographical readings, the idea of her as a tragic playwright, a playwright who was moving towards monologue, and so as a result I thought, “Well, why not contextualise these interviews”, and particularly interviews that she gave off the record. There are, one of the things I did was try to track down interviews that she’d given to journalists, for example the James Christopher interview in the book, but only a fraction of that had been published in the newspapers so he very kindly, for example, gave me the cassette with the interview and she spoke about some absolutely fascinating things, so it’s a lot of these part bootleg, I suppose one might call them, interviews pulled from a various number of places which, sort of, occupy centre stage in the book.

AS: Do you think that kind of biographical approach intensified after she committed suicide, what, ten years ago this year isn’t it?

GS: Yes, I think it has to a certain degree and it’s not useful because I think what it does, it positions her work and I think it narrows it as it does with any artist who dies in that manner.

AS: It also seems the easy option. I was just reading a book, John Lahr’s book, Prick up Your Ears, about Joe Orton, and of course it’s very easy to go through his life and see how it’s reflected in his plays, but in a sense after you read a few chapters like that you think,“Well, so what?”

GS: Well, it’s always interesting, isn’t it, that the life becomes so much more interesting than the plays. It’s interesting that we’re going to be having an adaptation of Lahr’s Prick up Your Ears biography of Orton on stage, rather than an actual play of Orton’s. So I always think that’s always a danger when a life becomes more interesting than the plays.

AS: How do you think her enormous reputation, that she gradually acquired, how do you see it now? I mean do you still think that she’s as valued as she was about five years ago when there were productions of her work all over Europe? Or do you think things have quietened down a bit?

GS: I think things have quietened down and I think that’s quite natural. I think it would be quite, it would be worrying, if she was still feted as you know if there were thousands of productions of her plays on throughout Europe. I think that would be saying something about the sort of vibrancy of theatre itself. Saying that, I mean we’ve just had a production of 4.48 Psychosis…

AS: Directed by Christian Benedetti…

GS: Benedetti, yes.

AS: … at the Young Vic.

GS: So there’s still currency for the work and of course certainly where you know the university, in academia her work is still being re-evaluated. Which is, you know, welcome. But I think in terms of actual productions, I don’t know, I think in Europe as well I think things have quietened down and I think that’s, as I say, I think that’s expected.

AS: And yes, of course, she’s been a tremendous influence, on almost all new writers.

GS: I think so but I tend to, I certainly don’t think there’s a school of playwriting that has come out of her work. Because I suppose it is, it’s a bit like, you know, is there a school of Beckett? Is there a school of Pinter? Most young playwrights will quote the names off the top of their heads, but whether they’re actually, you know, Sons of Harold is another matter. And I can’t think of a playwright, a younger playwright who is overtly influenced by Kane.

AS: Let’s roll back now: could you tell us when you first became aware of her work?

GS: Well, I first came across Sarah Kane when I was a student many years ago at Birmingham University. I was in my last year and she had just started the MA in playwriting studies that David Edgar ran at the time, at the university, and I remember seeing the final year production that she did of Blasted, which was basically half the play up until the entrance of the Soldier, and…

AS: And this was a student end-of-year showcase, or something?

GS: Yes, it was, it was… The MA playwriting course was excellent because it used to involve the students; the undergraduates would act, it would be a whole weekend of the plays and they would get a professional director to work on these plays over two or three weeks and then you’d be on. You were on, so, you know, it was a really useful way for the playwrights themselves to see how their work worked, I suppose.

And I remember there was a buzz about the department, about this play called Blasted which featured nudity, and it was very, it was supposed to be very difficult and already the playwright herself, [people] saying, “Oh she’s very difficult, she’s, you know, she’s this, she’s that”, and we went to see it. I was in a play called Slipshod, which was on just before, and so I remember rushing out, because two of my friends were in, were in Blasted – Greg Hobbs and Alison Hale – and I remember watching it, and even then, it completely divided the audience, it already caused this ripple. And there was a wonderful moment where after the play David Edgar sat with the director, Pete Wynne-Willson, and Sarah Kane, and she trenchantly, even at that point, had to defend the play. And you already felt something was in the air, people were debating about the play afterwards. You couldn’t, it was one of those moments, a bit like Mamet’s Oleanna, when that came to the UK, in the production that Harold Pinter directed, you know, it was one of those moments in theatre where you did talk to strangers in the bar and already this sort of marked the play out.

And so when it came, this was in the summer of ’94 in Birmingham. When the play came out at the Royal Court in the January of ’95 I went to see it, and by that time I’d started my PhD, and Kane’s Blasted informed some that. I was working on a PhD that looked at how contemporary British dramatists re-write Shakespeare and that’s actually how I got interested in Sarah Kane, and I subsequently got to meet her after that.

AS: When you met her, is that when you interviewed her?

GS: Yes, yes.

AS: Okay, and what ground did you cover when you were interviewing her?

GS: Well, a lot of that interview has ended up in the Faber book. The interview was actually quite extensive; it was one of the first interviews that she gave and because it was, at the time, really just for my PhD, and it had never been intended at that time for publication, she was really quite candid and so the interview, as people will find out in the book, ranges from Andrea Dworkin and 80s feminism to The Alan Clark Diaries to the issue of mass rape in Bosnia at the time. So it’s a very wide ranging…

AS: For example, I remember the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War…

GS: Yes, yes, she talks about that, to hard-core pornography and snuff movies so it’s a very candid interview and I think it informs a lot of the concerns that underline her work.

AS: And why do you say that?

GS: I think that one of the interesting things that has started to emerge in “Kaneology”, and Kane studies, is this re-evaluation of her as a female playwright. Kane famously says, and I’ve included the extract from the interview in the book — it’s the, I suppose, the theatrical equivalent of Mrs Thatcher’s “There’s no such thing as society” — where Kane says, “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a woman playwright”, and I think this alienated her from a lot of feminists, feminists working in theatre studies. But I think there’s been a lot of interesting work carried out recently on actually looking at her as a feminist writer, and I think it’s true: I think she has a lot more, many more links to that earlier generation of writers like Sarah Daniels and Timberlake Wertenbaker, Charlotte Keatley, than I think appears on the surface in the plays.

AS: In fact in your book, the latest book, you do draw a link between her work and Clare McIntyre, who was one of the people I think, a visiting lecturer? At Birmingham on the MA, so that’s quite an interesting direct influence, isn’t it?

GS: Well it’s interesting that she lifts the idea from McIntyre’s My Heart’s a Suitcas’, where there’s a story on the news of a murdered girl, and it’s a completely de-personalised the news story…

AS: That’s right, yes.

GS: And Kane basically uses that in Blasted and also the idea of characters appearing, there’s a character called Baggage in McIntyre’s play who walks through, who comes through the wall, you sort of have a Soldier crashing through the door.

AS: Yes, there are similarities, for sure.

GS: McIntyre was only her tutor for a very short while, and characteristically Kane fell out with her. But there’s, you know, there are many links with her work, particularly that issue of rape. Rape revolves around her plays, and also one of the other interesting areas in Kaneology at the moment is the monologues. Kane wrote these series of three monologues when she was a student at Bristol University…

AS: Right and their titles – Sick?

GS: ‘Comic Monologue’, ‘Sick’ and ‘What She Said’.

AS: And what about them?

GS: Well, they’re interesting; they use the monologue form that she eventually, moves into with Crave and 4.48 Psychosis, but they’re plays. Particularly What She Said is a play in which lesbian politics are very specifically addressed. They’re also, sort of, plays that, echo a lot the concerns that were very current in the late 80s. And they’re interesting that those themes don’t revert, don’t occur in the later plays, yet particular lines are recycled and used in Crave and 4.48 Psychosis. So again that’s a very interesting area, those monologues which are available for people to look at Bristol University, where they’ve been left.

AS: Although the Sarah Kane Estate won’t allow them to actually be published.

GS: No, that’s true. You can look at them, but they cannot be published.

AS: But were you allowed to quote from them in your book?

GS: No, and I haven’t.

AS: Okay. Talking about your book again, could you outline its structure a bit? Because as well as having that section ‘Kane on Kane’, you also have some interviews that you’ve done, and also you’ve put her into context, is that right? Into the 1990s?

GS: Yes, the book, the series has quite a strict, has a strict…

AS: Format?

GS: … format to it, but it’s a very useful format. One of the first sections, sort of locates Kane in terms of The Times in which she was writing. It gives a brief outline of her career and also then a section on each of the plays, and I found because the first book I wrote on Kane ‘Love Me or Kill Me’, was written very quickly. I mean it was written, it was researched and written in just over a year, which is a ridiculously short amount of time, so some of the shortcomings, or areas that I didn’t have time to look at, and, of course, it’s a long period of time from 2002 until the present. Things have changed, so it allowed me to look at her reputation and also change some of the views I had, and that have changed, some of the opinions I had about her work in 2002, I don’t have now.

AS: No, I totally agree with that because when I wrote about her in In-Yer-Face Theatre I thought she was very typical of the new writing of the middle 1990s. The further we get away from that in time, the more un-typical she seems to be, and that’s partly also because of the enormous control she exerted on her own career. There are five plays and each of them are different in form, that right isn’t it?

GS: Yes.

AS: And each of them is, in some way, an engagement with that British tradition of naturalism. Could you talk us through a bit of that? How would that be expressed in, say, Blasted, her debut?

GS: Blasted is a good example in that there’s always a very uneasy form of naturalism, or realism, in her work and I give an example of that: in the opening of Blasted there’s a stage direction which reads “A hotel room in Leeds.” A luxurious hotel, and it’s all set up, you’ve got champagne on ice, you’ve got, you know…

AS: Room service?

GS: Room service, it all looks absolutely fantastic. There are flowers, and I give the example that an audience member watching this play could be looking at something like Neil Simon’s Honeymoon Suite. That they’re going to get a well-made play, and the expectation is that this is going to be a play about romantic love. Then you get the first line of the play — Ian’s “I’ve shat in better rooms than this”.

AS: Better “places” than this.

GS: “Better places than this”. And suddenly expectation, the audience expectations are undermined.

AS: Yes it’s subverted. Also it’s a play of two halves, because you mentioned…

GS: Football’s a game of… Yes.

AS: … you mentioned the fact that the Soldier bursts in half-way through and subverts the whole form of the play. How do you see the second half, which is completely unnaturalistic? Ian even speaks after he’s died. I mean the stage directions says “he dies with relief”, he carries on speaking. How, how do you characterise that second half?

GS: Well, again you see I’m starting already to question this idea of the play being of two halves. I think it’s something that I’ve said, and you have said…

AS: Well Sarah Kane said…

GS: And even she said it. Well I don’t think it a play of two halves because I think what she does, her use of structure, the second half of the play is alluded to throughout the first. Through very, very small moments. And I think Cate’s fits are a good example of that. They, I think, provide the, sort of, conduit into the second part of the play where Cate’s rape by Ian is revisited in the second part of the play with the Soldier.

AS: Where the Soldier rapes Ian.

GS: Yes. So I think that we’re prepared for that first, in the first part of the play, for the second. I think it’s all there. And, you know, I don’t know but I suspect that they’re, that it’s, some of that is deliberate.

AS: Yes. Also there’s a story, isn’t there, about why the play has those two halves? She didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Shall I do this?” It’s all because she changed her mind as she was writing the play. Can you talk us through that as well?

GS: Yes.

AS: Because it was originally, it was just to be about what?

GS: It was a play about a domestic rape. And again that theme is explored in one of, in Comic Monologue. One of those early student monologues, but during that time, the siege of Srebrenica was in place. And Kane had seen the news footage of…

AS: This is the Bosnian war, the civil war…

GS: The Bosnian war. And had seen that and wanted to, sort of, bring in the horrors of that conflict but at the same time was preoccupied with this play about domestic rape, and from what she says in the interviews, she fuses the two. She realises that she makes the connection between domestic rape and rape in full-scale civil war.

AS: And that would also play to your idea that it’s quite a feminine text because an anti-feminist would not make those connections.

GS: Well also that whole debate that you get in, say, a play like Sarah Daniels’s Masterpieces, the idea that male violence and pornography and rape are all somehow connected. There is that, sort of, connection. But I think where Kane is different is that she is also interested in the oppressor.

AS: Yes.

GS: So someone like Ian is almost made into a sort of tragic hero. You wouldn’t get that in the work of, say, people like Daniels or someone like Clare McIntyre’s Low Level Panic, you know, when there’s an attack on the girl in that play.

AS: Also she refuses, Kane I mean, refuses to make her women into victims. You know, pure and simple.

GS: Although one might say it’s debatable whether Cate actually ends up on top. It’s a very ambiguous ending.

AS: That’s true.

GS: Where she’s almost, and I remember saying in Love Me or Kill Me she’s a bit like a latter-day Jane Eyre, she comes back to her Rochester, you know, there’s…

AS: Who was blinded?

GS: He was blinded, yes. Blinded and…

AS: Now I like playwrights talking about other playwrights, and Steve Waters, the playwright, once wrote about Kane “that she sought to shatter the social realist certainties of British theatre”, and that’s obviously true in the last two plays. Could you talk us through Crave and 4.48 Psychosis? Well actually it’s also true in Cleanse’; let’s start with Cleansed then.

GS: Cleansed is a real departure. It would be, although there are shared themes between Cleansed, Blasted and Phaedra’s Love, it’s a very different play. It’s almost as if those forms of realism have started to become eroded, so you have, sort of, a skeletal storyline. And one of the things Kane talks about in the interviews is how Büchner’s Woyzeck influences Cleansed, that’s a play where you’ve just got separate scenes seemingly, I mean, we don’t even know what order Woyzeck was written in, and…

AS: And yet it all makes sense!

GS: And yet it all make sense, and Cleansed has a very basic storyline of a young woman entering an unnamed institution where her brother had been incarcerated, and it’s during that period in the institution, which she voluntarily submits herself to, she is tortured and also at the same time becomes her brother, through a sort of quasi-scientific sex change.

AS: And I remember you talking about the links between Tinker, who is the guard in the camp, and 1984 by George Orwell, where what’s his name? O’Brien?

GS: O’Brien.

AS: Is a similar figure. Can you talk us through that? Because that a clear, sort of…

GS: He’s both a sort of torturer and a sort of lover.

AS: Yes.

GS: An erstwhile lover. Also Tinker is a voyeur who watches the other inmates in this institution and almost tests them out. He’s like a moral experimenter, in much the same way as someone like the Duke in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.

AS: Actually I’m glad you mention Shakespeare because obviously another field you’ve explored is the links between contemporary drama, or new writing, and those theatre traditions, chiefly Shakespeare and the Jacobean playwrights. Cleanse’ has got some links, hasn’t it?

GS: I think so, certainly with John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. I tend to find that there you have a woman who is imprisoned and is attempted to be driven mad through a series of tricks. There’s certainly that. There’s also, sort of, the ring imagery in Cleansed and the exchange of rings between Rod and Carl…

AS: Oh yes, that’s right.

GS: And we get the same imagery in Duchess of Malfi, as well as plays like Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venic’. Also, in Cleansed, all of these characters are in love with each other.

AS: Yes.

GS: The play is about who ends up with whom.

AS: And also like Twelfth Night, it’s got this idea of shifting identities, and disguise, and wearing other peoples clothes, and…

GS: Yes, whereas Shakespeare’s interested in twins, the brother and sister, Graham and Grace, are sort of, almost sort of fused together. And again, one of the other plays that’s very much behind Cleansed is John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. She even uses the line – “Love me or kill me, brother”.

AS: Which comes exactly from there. And is the title of your first book. Talking of Crave and 4.48 Psychosis, can you try to explain why she made this radical departure, in terms of theatre form?

GS: My own theory, and this is only my own thoughts about this, is that in 4.48 Psychosis and Crave, characterisation in the sense of, you know, Ian, Cate, Phaedra, is dispensed with. In Crave you have letters, standing in, A, B, C and M, for the four characters. Now again, that’s not so new, Becket had done that. In some of his late work. And in 4.48 Psychosis she goes even further, in that you’re not quite sure who is speaking.

AS: Although it’s clear that some things are conversation, some are exchanges…

GS: Yes.

AS: Others have quotes from various; let’s call it “found material”.

GS: Yes, very much so. And that there a structure that’s there. But my own feeling about this is that I think she got rid of character in order for her to — and how can I put it? — hide behind the text, so that if it wasn’t particularly in, with, gender, it allowed her to say, without actually having to commit herself to women speaking. Or “Who is actually speaking?” So in that respect it was a further move away from that, her dread of categorisation. Either “You’re not going to put me in that pigeonhole, you’re not going to marginalise my work”…

AS: Yes, that’s very interesting because certainly in Crave, I think there’s two characters who are certainly women…

GS: And in one of the interviews she’s very upfront about that C is a young woman and that M is an older woman. But is also…

AS: It’s also in the text. I mean, C talks about her period, which is very unlikely if she’s a man.

GS: Yes.

AS: So, I mean, that’s clear. But with 4.48 Psychosis, any of the lines, I think I’m right in saying, could be said by either a man or a woman? Is, do you think that’s true?

GS: Possibly, possibly.

AS: I haven’t tested it out, but it sounds right.

GS: But often the language is not gender specific. But I think that is liberating when you’re a writer who doesn’t want sort of taint of biography, or autobiography, to attach itself to the work.

AS: Yes, that’s very interesting. So a lesser writer would have written a suicide note as her last play and made it specifically herself in it, whereas 4.48 Psychosis, I always think, that when you put it on stage with exclusively female voices, either as a chorus of, let’s say, five or six women or one woman doing as a monologue, as that recent one at the Young Vic, that in a way that narrows it down.

GS: Yes.

AS: And it actually implies autobiography.

GS: Well we then go back to 80s feminism again, where the monologue was often the preferred form in, not all, but it was certainly a significant strand in a lot of women’s work. Claire Dowie, for instance.

AS: Yes, yes.

GS: And it’s a form that Kane starts off on, as a student, and returns to.

AS: But she returns to it with all that knowledge, and experience, and genius.

GS: Yes.

AS: Yes. Now with Crave, the interesting thing is that the text implies that there are relationships between these two men and the two women, but they’re very blurry and they’re not definite, and sometimes it might not be so. How do you cope with that? How do you even start to analyse that?

GS: It’s interesting that one of the lines in 4.48 Psychosis is “Victim, bystander, perpetrator”. Always that idea of people who are abusers yet are also lovers. Again we’ve come back to Comic Monologue, the very early monologue, where a young woman is raped by her boyfriend, who later then gives her a bath and kisses her, so idea of abuse and love, which we see in Blasted, where Ian and Cate were at one time in a relationship. Seems to fascinate audience…

AS: And also in Sarah Kane’s one film, that short film called Skin.

GS: Yes, which we’ve not discussed.

AS: There’s a very similar dynamic going on. Yes, that’s right.

GS: Yes. And it’s this idea of the abuser being both someone who is charismatic. The figure of A has that amazing speech which is the most beautiful outpouring…

AS: Love speech.

GS: It is a love speech. It’s an out-pouring of lost love. But, of course, then the rug is pulled under your feet again because it’s the same character who has said earlier in the play: “I’m a paedophile”, and C and M, sorry C and A seem to sort of have this, during that speech C is saying, “This has to stop, this has to stop, this has to stop”.

AS: Yes. So there’s obviously some sort of voice and answer going on there. And in 4.48 Psychosis, what do you think it’s about? Is it about a psychotic breakdown? Or is it much more complicated than that?

GS: Oh, it’s difficult. I think it’s about lost love… I think there’s, again, a beautiful — beautiful is probably the wrong word — but a long speech about “I go out in the morning and wait for you”, it’s about that. It’s also very much a play about the treatment of those who are mentally ill…

AS: Yes.

GS: In the health service, the idea of psychiatry. What happens…?

AS: Well, the idea of treatment through drugs…

GS: Yes.

AS: Because there’s that huge long speech about the different effects of taking different medications.

GS: Yes. Worth, it’s worth comparing 4.48 Psychosis to Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange. It’s a play about creativity; it’s about the role of the writer — what happens when your illness is actually linked to your creativity? There’s fears about that, it’s, yes, the spectre of suicide haunts the play.

AS: Well it haunts all of her work. I think in every single play and the film there’s either someone who commits suicide, or tries to commit suicide.

GS: Yes, that’s true.

AS: It’s a thing that runs through her work and that’s unavoidable. Do you also think that towards the end of 4.48 Psychosis there’s a sort of religious moment of illumination as well? Or not?

GS: It’s a good question. You have voices in the play that, sort of, quote from the bible. I’m not so sure, we also get that in Crave as well but I don’t think we can see it as, I can’t, I’m sceptical of the play being read in that way. It’s almost the last lines of the play are, it is you know, “It is myself I have never seen, it is myself who has been pasted on the underside of my mind”, or something. I think it’s very much a goodbye. “Please open the curtains.”

AS: Just like, kind of, Prospero’s farewell.

GS: Yes.

AS: I just want to end by quoting Dominic Dromgoole, who was at the Bush Theatre when Sarah Kane was, I think, a literary associate there, and he’s now at Shakespeare’s Globe and he says, “The only problem with Sarah is that I’m not sure she’s a natural writer.” What do you think he meant by that?

GS: I mean, it’s difficult to say, what is a… You know, the very act, Kane says in 4.48 Psychosis, “Just the word on a page and there is the writing.” So I don’t think it’s a helpful phrase. Possibly what he meant is that she keeps returning to a narrow range of concerns, but then again so does Beckett.

AS: Yes, quite.

GS: So I don’t, I’m not convinced, but that thing of a natural writer…

AS: I think what he’s getting at is that she doesn’t write easy dialogue, in the sense that theatre people or artistic directors are always looking for natural writers, people who spill out dialogue very easily, because they can work for television, for film, for the theatre, but her writing always has a different agenda I think. Do you agree with that?

GS: Yes, I think it’s rarer, it’s much more challenging. I think actually that makes her a much more interesting writer. Edward Bond has a lovely analogy of certain types of dramatists, he calls one group After Dinner Dramatists, who show off, basically, their cleverness and people like, I suppose, Tom Stoppard, and also, you know, dramatists who are much more challenging and I think Kane isn’t easy, but I think that actually makes her, you know, she says herself in one of the interviews, she couldn’t write easily for television because that’s not what television demands. Or certainly not what the market currently in television…

AS: Yes, you can’t imagine her doing an episode of The Bill, really.

GS: Although there is, she was, apparently — I don’t know how true this is — that she did write something for The Bill once.

AS: Oh, right!

GS: Well she told me once that she wrote something for The Bill, of someone chained to a radiator. But whether that’s right, I’ve never been able to verify that. One of the other things, the interesting things also about Sarah Kane is that you have to take a large, take what she says with a large pinch of salt, because what she often does, deliberately I think, wrongfoots interviewers and she’ll play, and so anything you take from, well I think you should do that with any writer, never accept what a writer says on trust. And I think with Kane, sometimes she would, she would use received accounts that, sort of, became…

When, actually, for example she talks about a character called Robin in Cleansed, and an incident taken from Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Roben Island, and an incident where someone was counting out the number of days they had to left, and this young prisoner called Robin had been taught to count by the other prisoners, and actually being taught to count he learnt out how long he had in prison and he committed suicide. I’ve not found any evidence…

AS: Because of the horror of that, yes?

GS: Yes, but I’ve found no evidence of that story.

AS: And yet it’s such a compelling story, when it’s put into Cleansed…

GS: Of course it is.

AS: That actually, whether it happened in real life, doesn’t actually matter. But you’re quite right, it’s an apocryphal story and, in fact, if you look at that story about the eyeballs being sucked out, her account differs slightly in that book Among the Thugs.

GS: Yes, the Bill Buford book. It’s a different, she gets it mixed up with a film, I think, called I.D., which her friend Vincent O’Connell directed. So the two get, and, of course, that happens sometimes. You conflate accounts.

AS: Okay, we’ve run out of time. I do have the feeling we could have done another hour’s worth, at least, but thank you very much Graham Saunders.

GS: Thank you.

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