4:48 Psychosis: A powerful suicide-note

4:48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s seminal play is centred on the transient moment in one’s life (at precisely 4:48 am) when one is professedly most sane, and paradoxically most prone to suicide. Or is it paradoxical? The play was posthumously published two weeks after the author’s suicide, and this play is considered by some critics to be her suicide note. The play is almost the incongruent offspring of TV’s ‘24’ and Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’; the exasperating slowness and conscious awareness of time meets boundless self-exploration and grief.

The monochrome white set and costume combine with the seamless script to force us into the subject’s head and we are driven by the intense outcries and sudden screams far from the possible comfort of a room or particular area. The characters exist in a white-washed world and by inviting us to co-exist in this insanity we too must undertake a process of painful introspection. Understandably Kane’s portrayal of madness from the inside out poses a challenge for the company. The compelling moments of human distress were often however interjected with circumvention of the deeper psychological nuances of clinical depression. We are forced to indulge, albeit vicariously, in Kane’s own self-indulgence for the full 90miutes. The audience, much like the characters are entrapped in an inescapable view of sanity in an insane world. We are made suitably uncomfortably aware of this by the barrage upon our senses of lighting, distorted voices and the plethora of piercing sounds. There is an entropic pull towards the senseless and de-individuated.

English students were told by cast member Alistair Blackwell in a lecture, that we ‘would not enjoy it’ but ‘it would move us’ and this seems to hold true. There is only so much fun one can expect from a play all about depression and such a play requires a dramatic intensity that was successfully realised by the New Theatre actors with their evocative performance.


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