Director: Paula Garfield
Writer: Sarah Kane
Reviewer: Miriam Sallon
4.48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s final play, is often considered a kind of suicide note, dealing with clinical depression, and an inability to feel wholly part of the world. There’s no plot to speak of, instead it follows a kind of ominous rhythm, as accompanied, in this case, by Chris Bartholemew’s haunting composition, and Joe Hornsby’s stark, thumping lighting design.
Two speaking actors (Erin Siobhan Hutching and Esther McAuley) play mental health specialists, and two deaf actors (William Grint and Jamie Rea) play the patients. This division adds another consideration to the sense of loneliness already present in the script: that being without sound in a world largely reliant upon it can be deeply isolating. The design (Paul Burgess) further impresses this idea: The entire performance takes place behind a Perspex screen, casting the audience as unfeeling spectators, observing the patients’ struggles inside a glass cage. The doctors are condescending and insensitive, though it’s clear they believe they’re doing their best. Grint and Rea are almost balletic in their movements, Ann Akin’s choreography often beautifully incorporating sign in to a kind of expressive dance.
In theory the lack of plot makes for an excellent sign and spoken hybrid. So much of the script is already made up of poetic abstractions and physical displays of emotion. But in practice, an already incredibly opaque and inaccessible play is made all the more so in trying to appeal to both audiences. Deafinitely Theatre and New Diorama Theatre’s intention are commendable, and it’s clear a lot of effort has been made in order to create a performance that employs both sign and spoken language in service to the story, rather than simply relying on translations from one to another. But whilst the production itself is strong, unfortunately, they picked the wrong play.
Runs until 6 November, 2019 | Image: The Other Richard