Writer: Sarah Kane
Director: Charlotte Gwinner
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
At 4:48, when sanity visits, for one hour and twelve minutes, I am in my right mind
4:48am. Allegedly the time when writer Sarah Kane would wake up, mind clear after a day of battling back the black dog with a cocktail of prescription drugs, and find herself able to write 4:48 Psychosis. Long accepted as her suicide note, the 45 minute play is a lyrical, wrenching and occasionally darkly comic account of living with depression. It’s not clear if it is Kane’s story, or an amalgamation of many perspectives, and that’s a question which will never really be answered – the writer killed herself before the play was even put into production.
As part of Sheffield Theatre’s Sarah Kane Season, the play has been interpreted for three actors. The script itself has minimal stage directions, and no hint at characters – companies have run it as a one man play as well as split between many more actors. In this production, the stage and costumes are minimal, allowing the audience to interpret location only through the clock inspired soundscape of Christopher Shutt and the warm and cold, daytime and night time shafts of light from Hartley T A Kemp. The actors roam the in the round theatre space naturally, standing in among the audience or seated centre stage, talking to but never actually acknowledging their presence. Indeed, they only occasionally acknowledge each others’ presence.
Strongest of the ensemble is Rakie Ayola, who in this performance ended the show on the verge of tears, so much emotion and connection was she putting into her performance. Her manipulation of her voice is beautiful, managing to make the sweary medicine induced ranting of the daytime seem just as lyrical as the more abstract and poetic thoughts of 4:48. Also strong is Tom Mothersdale, whose naturalistic acting discussing self harm and suicide plans contains a bitterly witty streak of sarcasm which had the audience laughing, even as they realised how awkward that should be. Final actor Pearl Chanda is by no means weak, but perhaps needs to find more balance between poetry and drama, as the other two have created.
The shows content is dark, it is hard to listen to at points, and at others does strafe the line into pretention. It also seems to end a number of times but then carry on, although the pace of the three actors makes the play as a whole pass in what seems to be a remarkably quick space of time, even with a significant number of loaded pauses. As a show, 4:48 Psychosis is understandably famous, probably because of its contentious subject matter and appeal to the inner drama student. It also has one heck of an important message at its very core about love, perception and mental health, and is a cry for help which everyone should go and see, just to get an insight into what a shockingly large number of people may be experiencing in your life without you ever knowing.
Runs until: Saturday 21st March
Photo Credit:Mark Douet