The Scene and The Stage: A Queer Reading of Pain and Catharsis in Sarah Kane
Keywords:Sarah Kane, BDSM, sadomasochism, catharsis, tehatre, contemporary English literature
This contribution represents a preliminary attempt to explore theatre and BDSM as intersecting performative loci of queer resistance through a reading of two works by British playwright Sarah Kane, the play Cleansed (1998) and the screenplay for television Skin (1997). Both works feature practices, such as degradation, spanking, and other forms of physical and emotional pain infliction traditionally found on the BDSM scene, especially in sadomasochistic interactions. While current criticism tends to pathologize the brutality displayed in Kane’s early works, my contention is that here pain infliction and reception are enacted as anti-normative relational modes both in the interactions among characters on stage and in the relationship with their audience. The BDSM “scene” and the theatre stage here overlap as safe spaces to experiment with sadomasochistic relationalities, offering experiences of catharsis that can work at a deep emotional and political level to elaborate a resistant queer performativity.
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