CUPPERS: Extracts from 4:48 Psychosis (Oriel)

Wed 7th November 2012

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Victoria Ibbett

at 17:52 on 10th Nov 2012

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Oriel’s performance of 4:48 Psychosis was taken from a longer play by Sarah Kane which treats the subject of clinical depression. The original playwright, herself a sufferer of the disease she wrote about, committed suicide before the play had been staged for the first time. 4:48 Psychosis is a play with a raw edge that Oriel ripped even more ragged. It was effective; baffling, and terrifying. It was a portrait of depression performed with terrible, truthful power.

The BT was pitch black for the entire performance, the only source of light being the hand held torches that the four cast members clutched, casting light on themselves or on each other as the lines were uttered. This was effective direction: the glaring, white masked faces of the cast flickered in and out of sight against the pitch black stage, creating a sense of instability that echoed the sentiments that they hurled at the audience and at each other: ‘I want to die!’; ‘I am sad!’

The structure of the performance, perhaps because it was exerted, was frenetic and baffling. There seemed to be little progression and the emergence of one of them in a white shroud at the conclusion was inexplicable, except as a symbol of the victory of the disease over the human mind. But there was no sense of a narrative build up to this moment: there was only the frantic outpouring of emotion and then, death.

But whilst I admit that I found the production baffling, I cannot say that I did not find it effective. The power of the play was undeniable – but it was a power born of raw, unstructured emotion. A portrait of depression, yes, but an unsubtle one, and one not embedded in any clear narrative arc. I left the theatre wondering what it was that I had seen and been privy too, and I am still wondering. But perhaps that is no bad thing.

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