2 November 2019: Craving Good News

I went to see Crave by Sarah Kane on Halloween. It’s one of her less violent ones, at least visually so. Emotionally-speaking, it’s tough, of course: four people talking at cross-purposes for 50 minutes, topics ranging from paedophilia, suicide, loneliness, loss, abandonment, and whatever else life throws at people in general, and people at each other.

The stage was a black square two sides of which were clad in transparent foil, the one you use for painting the walls. The actors ripped these apart at the end, just before moving towards the open door whose light enticed them away from the stage of their pain.

To be honest, I understood much too little of the reasons for this or that choice, production-wise, composition-wise…but perhaps it’s enough just to be there and watch, listen, co-suffer.

Studies have found that people around the world are more engaged by bad than good news. Scientists measured heart rate and skin conductance when playing good and bad news clips to an international group of people, and discovered that there is a greater physiological arousal response when the news is bad. They don’t explain this “negativity bias”, but there you go, we’re turned on by disaster. Tragedy, yet again.

It’s curious, though, that this bias is biological, irrespective of culture or language. Tragedy wired in our genes.

It’s also curious that the physiological response does not increase with an increase of bad news. We can only take so much it seems. So your CNN and BBC might as well mix in more good news than they currently do. We’ll keep watching, keep consuming. Keep activating.

In the play, all characters, all four of them, craved love before anything, actually; love from each other, their parents, self-love, as in self-esteem. Even Kane’s bleakest plays always have their protagonists show or want love, even if only a sliver of it, somewhere amid all that chopping off of limbs à la Titus Andronicus.

Redemption, and the impossibility of total waste.

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