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Review: Deafinitely Theatre’s 4.48 Psychosis at New Diorama Theatre

4.48 Psychosis. Jim Fish, Adam Bassett, Brian Duffy & Matt Kyle. Credit - Becky Bailey.
4.48 Psychosis. Jim Fish, Adam Bassett, Brian Duffy & Matt Kyle. Credit – Becky Bailey.

Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis is difficult to stage. There are no indications as to staging, location, cast or even who speaks. For some, this is a fascinating examination of the emptiness and despair of depression and psychosis; for others, it’s pretty confusing. Deafinitely Theatre neatly dovetails the theme of ‘understanding’ by staging the piece as a bilingual performance for hearing and Deaf people.

For Deaf people, life can be a constant struggle against barriers of being understood. Depression is an equally silent topic in the Deaf community, even more so among men; so what better text to express frustration and the desire to be understood than Kane’s enigmatic final work.

The theme of being understood is made clear in the set: the audience are physically separated from the actors by a plastic screen, muting their speech and suggesting a sense of voyeurism and exhibitionism. The actors are clearly framed in a certain light, and increasingly wish to break down the walls that halt their self-expression.

Kane’s fragmented piece (her last before her suicide) is usually interpreted as a monologue, often performed by a women. Paula Garfield has reinterpreted it as an exchange between two patients and two doctors in a hospital.

The play is largely signed, rather than spoken. This works in multiple respects: it provides access to a frequently excluded community to enjoy a largely spoken art form. Furthermore, it gives non-signing audience members something of an experience what it is like to not understand. Accessible theatre is not very common: the vast majority of pub theatres are up steep flights of stairs; many larger theatres still require climbing to reach seats.

There may, however, be a case of ‘concept over content’ here. Garfield’s production hinges heavily on the theme of understanding and being able to express oneself. This show is almost entirely performed in sign language, meaning that large chunks of the play are silent, accompanied by screen saver piano music. It’s all very well making the audience experience exclusion and silence, but the majority of the people just won’t know what’s going on. If Garfield wants to create an experience of exclusion, it’s important that we know what we’re being excluded from.

3 Star Review

Review by Thomas Froy

I had a night in which everything was revealed to me.
How can I speak again?

The early hours of the morning. You’re alone, with only your thoughts. How did you get here? And how do you get out? Sarah Kane’s searing, final play in a ground-breaking new production from Deafinitely Theatre.
Award-winning Deafinitely Theatre bring its celebrated bilingual approach to Sarah Kane’s lyrical and haunting final play about mental health.

Deafinitely Theatre and New Diorama Theatre present
4.48 Psychosis
By Sarah Kane
Director: Paula Garfield; Designer: Paul Burgess; Lighting Designer: Joe Hornsby
Composer & Sound Designer: Chris Bartholomew; Visual Consultant: Alim Jayda
Voice Coach: Elspeth Morrison
New Diorama Theatre
18 September – 13 October 2018

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