Saturday, August 12, 2006

4:48 Psychosis

Tonight I saw the Sarah Kane play 4:48 Psychosis at the Summerworks Theatre Festival. I first encountered the work of Sarah Kane in 2000 during a theatre course in my MA program at Kings College London. In 2001, the Royal Court Theatre ran a season of Sarah Kane's work and I saw almost all her plays here, including 4:48 Psychosis. It was one of the most riveting moments of my life - I did not realize I was crying until the lights came up and I was overwhelmed by the rawness and emotion and beauty of such a stunning piece of theatre. In a sentence, the play is a chaotic meditation on the disintegration of the mind from mental illness.

The play is almost like a long poem, and I suppose can be interpreted in a few different ways. But the way this director interpreted the play was just...terrible. The original production had three actors who assumed various roles (patient, doctor, witness) and rotated as such. But the Summerworks performance had the actors take specific roles which they maintained throughout the play - patient, doctor, and the witness that was portrayed as some kind of blood soaked zombie. By assuming static roles and having tremendously long monologues throughout, the intentional chaos of the play wasn't communicated at all. The play was also overacted, sometimes embarrassedly so, and this stripped the beauty out of Kane's words.

The Royal Court performance made wonderful use of props and lighting - a large mirror was hung on a slant above the stage, which reflected a second mirror that lay on the stage. As one actor counted the serial sevens, another wrote the numbers on the mirror - but backwards, so the hanging mirror displayed the numbers in the correct form. It was a beautiful portrayal of the delicate nature of chaos. Tonight's performance, on the other hand, had a transparent plastic curtain smeared with fake blood and a handheld flashlight. Sigh. I won't go as far to say that this performance was a disservice to Kane's work, but it was appallingly disappointing. For a better idea of how brilliant the Royal Court performance was, here is a review of it.

I wanted to quote some of 4:48 Psychosis here and have spent over an hour trying to choose a passage. I could just reprint the entire play, but in the end I chose this:

Sometimes I turn around and catch the smell of you and I cannot go on I cannot fucking go on without expressing this terrible so fucking awful physical aching fucking longing I have for you. And I cannot believe that I can feel this for you and you feel nothing. Do you feel nothing?


Anonymous said...

hey, i really want to use a monologue from Kane's 4:48 Psychosis as an audition piece but i can't find one anywhere. Can you help me find the / some of the script? that would be really helpful.

thanks. Alex.

Gina said...

Hi, I have the same question as the above commenter, but I'm wondering also what the licensing is on this play? Any idea? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I hope that you are over your embarrassment. This is such a naf piece of writing, despite your clearly being intellectually quick. I had to go explore your blog to get a sense of who wrote it, to see if it might give sense to the writing. - don't worry you're not alone, most people who blog about theatre write twaddle. Well, it soon became apparent that you are a young lady of abundant privilege supplied no doubt by mumsie and daddy. May I suggest that abundant privilege a) does not make you superior, and b) it offers an opportunity to be a generous human, not a self-absorbed twat. I see you wrote this years ago, perhaps you have matured. but after perusing your blog I have to say that your writing has an overwhelming stink of entitlement. Yes, I am writing from a place of anger. I am really tired of people like you who have all the privilege in the world and crap on anything isn't top notch, because you lack the understanding that not everyone has all the materials and support to make it so. Kane's play, poetic as it is, is brutal. It's one of my favourites. Having dealt with depression in the past and cared for someone with suicidal depression, there is NOTHING poetic, weepy and moving about it. It is heartbreaking, exhausting and brutal. P.S. Perhaps this was what the company was going for. Perhaps your embarrassment was your inability to deal with emotions that would strip the veneer of perfection that you so work at displaying. Perhaps an indie company at a summer festival does not have the resources of the Royal Court - though I have no doubt the RC production was amazing. Perhaps, one can only hope, that you are not involved in theatre.