Kane, Nina R. (2013) 'F- F- Felt it': Breathing Feminist, Queer and Clown Thinking into the Practice and Study of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed and Blasted. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis uses studio practice, scholarly research, close reading of text, performance observation and conversation with practitioners to establish diverse readings of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed. It includes original material from the 2012 productions of Cleansed in Japan (Kamome-za Fringe Theatre), and in Ireland (Bare Cheek Theatre). It notes practice on Cleansed in gallery spaces (Cast-Off Drama, UK). It offers a dramaturgical approach to workshopping the play from a feminist and queer position, informed by theories of gender and transgender, and the marginalised, loving and delinquent practice of clowning. The research discusses principles of breath, voice and sexuate difference drawing primarily on the philosophies of Luce Irigaray, on the voice practice of Cicely Berry and the clown teaching of Sue Morrison.

The work challenges the ‘in-yer-face’ theatre discourse on Kane arguing that it represents a McDonaldization of its subject matter, and an insidious trivialisation of her texts. It offers new thinking on the opening night of Blasted (1995), suggesting that the ‘furore’ was fuelled by collective male hysteria and superstition; its roots centred in mourning. Analysing Cleansed in relation to Edward Bond’s Saved and Lear, it explores tropes of ghosts, stitching and the silent scream, and argues that Kane militates for gynocentric time and becoming. It analyses the symbol of the perimeter fence as a feature of 1980s Britain, noting the strength of binary associations configured in it with reference to both English football hooliganism (male) and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (female). It argues that Kane sets up heteronormative binaries in Cleansed to debate and contest them.

A key conclusion of the thesis is that Cleansed politically addresses and dramatises issues of transgender experience presenting accounts of gender violence, mutability, transitioning, the sharp fractures and silences of gender dysphoria, but also, ultimately, queer desire, love and optimism.

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