4.48 Psychosis

Thu 19th – Sat 21st November 2015


Will Trinkwon

at 10:02 on 20th Nov 2015



Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis is not for the faint of heart. Deeply disturbing, it takes us inside the minds of three people suffering from depression as it charts their relentless and inevitable dissolution to suicide, an account which is as difficult to perform as it to watch. Fortunately, this outstanding BAT’s group have risen to the challenge, producing an innovative and polished production that excels by anyone’s standards.

Rute Costa, Isla Cowen and Ruby Kwong drive ‘Psychosis’ brilliantly. Their performances all showcase real emotional depth, authentic stage presence and a deft and mature handling of Kane’s highly demanding playscript. Indeed, the trio move seamlessly across an impressive emotional register, from sanitized detachment to electric psychosis, as each assumes the role of Kane’s doctor, patient and observer in turn, so that their identities seem to be converging into one as all three suffer a similar mental breakdown. What ‘Psychosis’ delivers is the individual’s psyche splintering in front of the audience, the mind being dismantled in HD-ready clarity. In this respect, Kwong is particularly outstanding, bringing an intensity to her portrayal of the patient which is legitimately disturbing. Her saucer-eyed, hyper-psychotic stare rivals Marion Cotillard’s in Inception – I dare you to meet her gaze without shivering. Equally, both Nicholas Ashurst and Annie Cave deserve recognition for some excellent directing and production decisions. The set design, stripped back and minimalist, works effectively to keep the audience’s attention where it belongs, on the actresses and Kane’s poetry, while the white cloth veil, which clings like a funeral shroud to the stage and back-walls throughout, has a real anaesthetising effect. Combined with the hum of an operating room-like white noise, ever presently throbbing in the background, there's a real feeling of medicalised constraint which Kane’s violent and emotive monologues are so often straining against; we feel as though we too are struggling against some clinical, oppressive force. Similarly, the tech team did a fantastic job with the lighting, regimentally beating off and on, off and on, between scenes, achieving a real fragmentary effect and really helping to build an impression of respective psychiatric fracturing. The choreography was also generally effective, though I wasn’t convinced by all the interpretive dancing – with the exception of the flawlessly executed ‘I Am Not A Robot’ self-harm scene, this was often a little underwhelming and, at points, looked silly. A couple of technical hiccups also niggled, though these were really only minor issues and the cast worked through them admirably.

Ultimately then, ‘Psychosis’ is a suitably disturbing and professional production by an incredibly talented cast. Indeed, my only major gripe is that more people didn’t turn up to see it open. Disturbing, mesmerising, and at times even poetic, ‘Psychosis’ provides a chilling case study of the realities of both mental breakdown and depression. Get yourself down to Queen’s College and see it.


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