4:48 Psychosis

4:48 Psychosis
By Sarah Kane. Workhorse Theatre Company. Director: Anthony Skuse. Old Fitz Theatre, Sydney. 16 August – 9 September 2017

4:48 Psychosis refers to that moment in the early morning when a muddled, besieged mind achieves clarity. So it was with playwright Sarah Kane. And having struggled through the hour of dark and twisted action to achieve such momentary awareness myself, I have to bow my head. For Kane was never to see her play performed. She committed suicide at 28.

Her play, directed by Anthony Skuse, and performed by three compelling actresses, Lucy Heffernan, Ella Prince and Zoe Trilsbach, is probably Sydney’s least attractive theatre offering. And yet - despite published warnings of ‘nudity, strobe lighting, theatrical haze and suicide themes’ – and despite it being having its own ‘Psychiatric Consultant’ - it gives an authentic account of psychosis in the form of a dramatized poem.

In this portrait of what it means to be terminally depressed, Sarah Kane calls for the total commitment of all concerned. There are no roles. Her dialogue can be divided up any way the company chooses. It has been performed by one actress. It has been performed by many.

At the Old Fitz Theatre, with noise from the bar filtering down, we sat spellbound as this version of the text was played out: the patient, the doctor and (possibly) the patient’s lover, in shafts of light in front of two mirrored walls (designed by Jeremy Allen), with the ceiling opening occasionally flooding the audience with light (designed by Alexander Berlage), and with creepy music playing throughout (by Benjamin Freeman).

The play and the demands made by director Skuse call on the total commitment of the cast. It’s to their credit that this is the most powerful hour on stage in Sydney right now. But I don’t recommend it to everyone. It’s tough.

Frank Hatherley

Images: Lucy Heffernan and Zoe Trilsbach (c) Andre Vasquez.

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