'In an institution designed to rid society of its undesirables, a group of inmates try to save themselves through love.' This was the young playwright Sarah Kane's précis of her third play Cleansed produced in 1998 at the Royal Court.
The nightmarish institution that Kane imagined, violently and systematically tortured its inmates and scenes included the (fatal) injection of heroin into an eyeball, violent amputation, male rape and suicide. Unsurprisingly, critics were shocked and outraged by what they saw (as they had been with the violence of Kane's first play 'Blasted'). Some, however, also recognised that the play's power did not stem purely from its shock value. Kane's works are visually ambitious, and their message is positive to an extent. Although love leads to acts of violence in the play, it also produces the only moments of tenderness and escape.
The Royal Court Theatre production of 'Cleansed' also avoided the graphic brutality of 'Blasted' with a more stylised production.