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Sarah Kane Sarah Kan
more: links to 4.48 Psychosis


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Sarah Kane

James Macdonald's production has three performers, whose roles constantly switch between doctor, victim and witness. The technique creates an appropriately disorientating impression of disintegration and mental anguish. "My mind is the subject of these bewildered fragments," says one of the play's voices, and that mind is putting the speaker through hell. Anyone who has suffered from depression will recognise the way Kane's language pins down the way in which its victims become trapped in repetitive loops of useless thought and feeling, and the desperate desire for peace or mere oblivion.

When 4.48 Psychosis was first performed at the Royal Court last year, Kane's family were anxious that it should not be seen as a suicide note. Yet it is impossible not to view it as a deeply personal howl of pain, a work ripped not just from its author's churning brain, but from the core of her being.

Macdonald's staging, with the audience sitting in steeply raked seats on the stage and the action taking place in what was once the Royal Court's stalls, is hypnotic, harrowing and strangely beautiful. The production makes brilliant use of an overhanging tilted mirror, reflecting the actors and the audience; video and lighting effects suggest the sickening fizziness of a diseased, overmedicated mind and the distant normality of everyday life that lies so tantalisingly beyond the patient's agonised solipsism.

click to go to link Michael Billington, Guardian, 30 June 2000

Three figures sprawl on a sparse set in front of a huge, slanted mirror. They argue among themselves - sometimes as if each were a facet of a single person.

--- David Chadderton, dl reviews, 2000 (link has gone- ourworld.compuserve.com)

The stage picture consists of a white stage floor, a white-topped table, two chairs and three actors: one male and two female. The back wall of the stage is a forty-five degree wall of mirrors sloping upwards towards the audience, so the stage can be watched directly or can be observed from above through the mirrors. This arrangement allows the actors to sit, stand or even lie down flat and still be seen. Video projections are used onto the whole stage, half of the stage or the table top, and the table is also used for writing lists of numbers (backwards, so they can be read through the mirrors!).

click to go to link Fiachra Gibbons, Guardian, 20 September 1999

4.48 Psychosis: The play, drawn from Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a young man who kills himself because of unrequited love, culminates in a young woman committing suicide

Blasted: Edward Bond, whose 1965 play Saved stirred a similar storm, defended Kane from the outset. "Blasted comes from the centre of our humanity and our ancient need for theatre. That's what gives it its strange, almost hallucinatory authority."

Cleansed: There is an enormous amount of depression in the play because I felt an enormous amount of despair when writing it," said Kane.
Even amid the eye-gouging, castration and dismemberment of the latter play, there were moments of beauty and even black humour provided by a choir of singing rats.

Crave: A poem for four voices, styled as two parallel conversations, it drew on T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and the Bible


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