Sometimes, you get a feeling that the next show you are going to review is a little bit different from the ‘norm’. So it was with Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis”. The first thing that gave me a clue this might not be your average fringe production was the location – in the crypt underneath St Pancras Church, Euston. Still, I have seen shows in odd places before so along I went and received my programme which is in the form of a prescription note with each member of the audience getting their own personal prescription – for info I was prescribed Zolpiclone, 7.5mg and Citalopram, 20mg.
So, down into the crypt we went and entered a world of darkness and depression, where disorientation and confusion was the order of the day and, despite all the audience members around me, isolation and a feeling of loneliness were all around. This is such a hard play to review, mainly because of the way it was written. According to Wikipedia, “4.48 Psychosis” is composed of twenty-four sections which have no specified setting, stage directions or characters. Its language varies between the naturalistic and the highly abstract or poetic. Director Emily Louizou and the creative team from Collide productions, have really used this freedom of staging effectively by making this a promenade piece using every inch of the crypt which at times feels vast and at others very claustrophobic. I really don’t want to give too much away on the staging because it is something that should be experienced rather than written about – indeed I don’t think the written word is enough to convey the power of being in the crypt with the play going on around you.
This is not comfortable viewing. There are no characters per se nor are there any real leading artists, as this is a strongly collaborative piece of theatre. What you do have is a strong location and a complex and convoluted script – which comes at you from every angle – delivered with highly stylized movements and sound. It is not however simply a show of random pieces of prose. There is a definite theme within the play and that is one of psychosis leading ultimately to suicide. Even this is controversial as the playwright committed suicide soon after finishing the play leading to questions as to whether it was fiction or a highly artistic suicide note. Going by what I saw, I would say the latter but it is left to each audience member to decide that question for themselves as they follow the actors over the course of this mesmerising 50 minute production.
There were two scenes which really stood out for me during the production. The first was when the actors were reading out a list of prescriptions that were being dished out to a patient. With each one, we heard the result of using it and the associated side effects. What struck me was how glibly the doses of the medicines were continually ‘upped’ by the medical staff until a desired response – ‘patient became co-operative’ – was reached. A scary indictment of the mental health support system. The second involved actors feverishly chalking numbers on a wall. These fascinated me as I was looking for a connection between them. Once discovered (each one was 7 less than the one above) I became obsessed as to the reasoning behind them and started thinking of all sorts of explanations for the sequence. I googled it this morning and the reason was a lot duller than I was hoping for.
As to the performers, they were all amazing. Playing a very complex character – or set of characters – in a completely believable and disturbing way. Since I have no idea who was who, and indeed they seemed to switch positions and leads all the time, I’m going to praise each of them. Here we go then, Helena Gadelha, Tahnee Nordegg, Depi Gorgogianni, Charlotte Barbour, Alisha Iyer, Miranda Teed, Ioli Filippakopoulou, Romina Moisis, Ellie Tsougrani, Jordaan Shelley and Faidra Faitaki – I salute you all.
To sum up, “4.48 Psychosis” is a deeply disturbing play that deals with very uncomfortable themes in a very honest and unsettling way. When I left the performance space, I found I had been very moved by what I had experienced in the crypt. But, I left with one phrase from the show that, even twelve hours later, really stuck in my mind “Nothing will interfere with your work like suicide”. To my mind, the most profound line in this absolutely brilliant performance.
Review by Terry Eastham
This is not a world in which I wish to live
Kane’s final play is a raw and sincere landscape of the psychotic mind. It is a story about someone who desperately wanted to communicate, to be understood; to be seen a person and not as an illness. 4.48 Psychosis allows us to observe the struggle of the self to remain intact and its inevitable fall.
Recreating an internal visual depiction of the human mind in turmoil. A barren space, and a mind which is full of potentiality at the same time. Exploring the fragmentation of self, the losing of borders that the psychotic mind experiences, the performance asks the audience to enter a subterranean labyrinth and encounter the complexity of the human memory, imagination and perception in all of its terror and beauty.
We have created a world open to its audience, a theatre of deconstruction which invites you to enter a region of the mind most of us would hope never to see. Enter our labyrinth.
A site-specific promenade performance lasting approximately 60 minutes.
8th July, 7.30pm and 9th July, 5.30pm & 7.30pm
Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church, Euston Road
Directed by Emily Louizou
Designed by Avra Alevropoulou, Lily Has, Ileana Arnaoutou
Music Composed by David Denyer
Thursday 9th July 2015