|Written by||Sarah Kane|
|Date premiered||30 April 1998|
|Place premiered||Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, London|
Cleansed is the third play by the English playwright Sarah Kane. It was first performed in 1998 at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs in London. The play is set in a university which has been converted into some form of bizarre institution under the rule of the sadistic Tinker. When the play premiered at the Royal Court in April 1998, Kane played the part of Grace for the last three performances because of an injury that the original actress suffered.
It is sometimes claimed that Tinker was named after the theatre critic for British newspaper The Daily Mail, Jack Tinker, whose review of Kane's first play Blasted was headlined "this disgusting feast of filth", but there does not appear to be any evidence of Kane confirming this.
In the first scene, a timid Graham approaches Tinker, a doctor and drug dealer. He says he 'wants out' and also asks for drugs. Tinker refuses. They then have an argument about whether or not they are friends. Tinker eventually injects Graham with drugs and he overdoses and dies.
Rod and Carl sit in a room together, Carl asks Rod if he can have his ring as a proposal of marriage. Rod initially refuses. Carl promises to always love him, never betray him, and never lie to him. Rod is cynical. Rod claims that Carl doesn't even know his real name, and states that he would never die for Carl. Carl is not fazed and keeps asking for the ring. Rod doesn't surrender the ring but admits that he loves him. They kiss.
Grace enters the hospital demanding her brother, Graham's, clothes. The dialogue between her and Tinker imply that her twin brother, Graham, has died. Tinker brings Robin in, who is wearing Graham's clothes. The two switch clothing, with Grace wearing her brother's clothes and Robin wearing the dress Grace came in with (Robin was originally written as a boy but is sometimes played by a girl). After a psychotic break triggered by her brother's lingering scent, Grace is admitted into the hospital. Gracie asks Robin to write her mother for her, but Robin reveals he cannot write.
In the next scene, Tinker beats Carl, wanting him to admit that he and Rod are romantically involved. He sodomizes Carl with a long pole, threatening to shove it through his body entirely. Carl gives up Rod's name and apologizes to Rod for it. Tinker then cuts out Carl's tongue and makes him swallow Rod's ring.
Grace has begun to hallucinate her brother. Stage directions and dialogue between them throughout the play imply that they had an incestuous relationship. Haunted by Graham, Grace tries to teach Robin how to read. Robin states his love for her, but Grace rejects it. Tinker comes into the room, tears out the writing in Robin's notebook, and leaves again. He goes and cuts off Carl's hands in front of Rod, who lays there and comforts him.
Tinker goes to see an exotic dancer, known simply as Woman, in a booth. He attempts to masturbate, but gets upset and leaves.
Rod sits in a room with Carl, remorsefully crying. Tinker enters and cuts off Carl's feet.
Robin buys a box of chocolates for Grace, who had mentioned that her previous boyfriend had bought her chocolates. Tinker confiscates the box of chocolates and questions Robin about them, who says they are for Grace. Tinker stands above him and throws chocolates on the ground towards him, demanding that he eats them. Crying, Robin is force-fed the whole box of chocolates.
In the next scene, Rod is crying, still, as Carl crawls up to him. They embrace, and then have sex. Rod vows never to lie to him, never to betray him, and to always love him. Tinker enters the room after they are finished, and slits Rod's throat in front of Carl, who holds him as he dies.
Grace and Robin sit together with Graham looking on. Robin works on counting the number of days until they are released from the hospital. Upset that Grace is not listening, Robin takes off the stockings he has been wearing and ties them around his neck. Grace continues not to pay attention, and Robin hangs himself.
Grace gets a sex change while in the hospital. She arrives onstage with bandages on her groin and breasts. Tinker says she's a lovely man, just like her brother. Carl awakes from the bed behind her, touching his groin. Upon the realization that his genitals were cut off and grafted onto Grace, he starts to cry. Tinker goes and has sex with the Woman, declaring his love for her. In the 2016 National Theatre production directed by Katie Mitchell, he then shoots her before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.
In the final scene, Grace sits on stage with Carl, who is now wearing her dress. She speaks to Graham until she realizes he is not there. She thanks Tinker as Carl begins to cry again. Grace and Carl are alone on stage, when, finally, the sun comes out.
- Kane, Sarah, Sarah Kane: Complete Plays. London: Methuen (2001), ISBN 0-413-74260-1