Sheffield theatre actress Jessica takes on tough challenge

Martin Marquez as Ian, Jessica Barden as Cate in Blasted.  Photograph by Mark Douet
Martin Marquez as Ian, Jessica Barden as Cate in Blasted. Photograph by Mark Douet

Young actress Jessica Barden certainly likes a challenge and she’s got one playing Cate in Blasted, Sarah Kane’s hard-hitting play at the Crucible Studio.

Blasted, which was famously described as a “feast of filth” by the Daily Mail when it was first seen in 1995, features sex, violence, strong language and some harrowing scenes.

The action begins in an expensive Leeds hotel room, which seriously ill middle-aged man Ian has brought his ex-teenage lover Cate to in an attempt to seduce her.

Later on, a masked soldier breaks into the room as civil war rages outside and the horror of what happens to civilians caught up in conflicts like Bosnia is both talked about and shown.

After the furore about the play began to die down, many people began to recognise that Sarah Kane’s writing was outstanding. She only wrote five plays before she committed suicide at the age of 28.

Blasted is part of a Crucible season showing all her work.

Jessica said: “I play Cate. She is a 21-year-old woman who has suffered some kind of trauma that’s left her with a stutter. When she feels in danger she faints.”

She said she knew she wanted to do the play when she read it: “I don’t have a lot of experience of plays. I just thought it was extraordinary and I always want to do things that are scary or daunting. That’s what I want to do as an actress.”

Despite the extremity of the situations that the characters face, Jessica said: “There’s lots in it that people could identify with if they tried to. My character has found herself in a relationship which is inappropriate and dysfunctional.”

She added: “The problem is that she isn’t really a woman. That’s what attracted me to her. At the age of 21 or 22 you feel you are now an adult but you are no different to when you were 15 or 16. You haven’t really done anything different.

“There’s pressure placed on you, especially from men. You don’t know how to deal with it. Society views you as a woman when you’re 21.”

She said of Cate’s relationship with Ian: “I really believe they have been in love with each other. They want to be close to each other and they are dealing with death. There’s a contrast of bad and good. I always want that.”

Blasted is at the Crucible Studio until Saturday, February 21. Box office: at the Crucible, online at Sheffield Theatres or call 0114 249 6000.