Cleansed, written by Sarah Kane, probes flesh, bodies and the human psyche; tracing the experience of six characters in an anonymous institution who are manipulated and mutilated by the ever-present figure, Tinker.
Presented by Montague Basement at the PACT Theatre as part of the Sydney Fringe, the play, directed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari explores the physical and emotional costs of forcing individuals to meet social standards.
“That’s a story that’s always important to me and Cleansed, like the misfits it depicts, refuses to conform to our expectations.” Lusty-Cavallari said.
Traversing feelings of grief, love and despair and the inevitable pain that attaches to those emotions, the play acknowledges anguish but does not reject the value of pain.
“At its core Cleansed is about institution; about how they break us down and remake us according to their specifications, and that breaking down is quite literal in this play.”
While Cleansed deals with visceral, brutal and sometimes disturbing images, it also touches upon lyricism and humour.
“Kane contrasts grotesque violence with picturesque beauty; explicit sex with clumsy slapstick in a way that can’t be logically exposited but leaves an incredibly lasting impact.”
Cleansed plays with contrasts, but clear cut dichotomies are not always evident when good and evil is not neatly divided.
“Cleansed is dark. It’s extremely violent. There are a lot of naked bodies. Yet it is far from a nihilistic play, it shows a lot of warmth towards its characters and ends on a surprisingly hopeful note.” Lusty-Cavallari said
Lusty-Cavallari’s production incorporates the use of cameras and live feeds to explore questions of voyeurism and the desensitisation of audiences to violent spectacles. Whilst it will be uncomfortable, it will no doubt be a provoking theatrical experience.
“Cleansed dares to let the actor’s body tell most of the story,” Lusty-Cavallari explained, “There’s an immense value to having real flesh suffer and triumph before the audiences eye, it’s ultimately what separates theatre from anything else. And I think that opens up an unparalleled opportunity for empathy, something that is always worth walking away with.”
Sep 19-23. PACT. 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville. $25-$30+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.montaguebasement.com
By Shon Ho.