first night

4:48 Psychosis

Izzy Osborne reviews an evening of emotional turmoil with CTC's production of '4:48 Psychosis'


4.48 Psychosis is playwright Sarah Kane’s last work, and it was written one week before Kane took her own life. What we are left with is a subjective presentation of depression, dependency and isolation, with a script composed of highly varied sections with no characters, stage directions or setting. Bearing this is mind, it is clear to see that this is not an easy play to perform or direct, being very much subject to interpretation.


Director Maria Zaikina chose the setting of the empty shop, which despite being extremely small, worked very well for immediately imposing an uncomfortable sense of intimacy, especially seeing as the audience were sat in an oval formation, meaning you could see the faces of everyone else watching. Throughout the performance the cast were constantly weaving around and in between the audience members, which effectively encouraged us to ask the question posed by Maria Zaikina- ‘who is the actor here, who is watching who?’- although it did become distracting, especially when the audience’s attention began to drift (which unfortunately it did rather too frequently).


The actors (Carrie Gaunt, Shona Graham and Hamish Clayton) should be very highly commended for their commitment. They never lost focus and their energy was palpable. Shona Graham in particular was fantastic she has a magnetic presence and I found myself watching her for the majority of the performance. Unfortunately, aside from the actors I found the production to be very flawed. The subject matter and context are undeniably fascinating and extremely emotive, however, I felt that the overuse of props and overthought direction often distracted from what the actors were actually saying. The most powerful moments were when the actors were inside the audience circle delivering their lines, however, these were few and far between. Torches being turned on and off, music, interpretive hand gestures, sound effects, mirrors, the handing out of envelopes, tables and stools being turned over and sat on and stood on and hidden under distracted from the subject matter rather than adding to it.



That being said, Zaikina did an impressive job with in an incredibly mentally and logistically challenging show. I can completely understand the intention behind her directorial decisions in trying to overwhelm and involve the audience in the mental chaos, however, I can’t help but feel that a simpler production that allowed the talent of the actors to shine would have been much more powerful. In trying too hard to present the play in an innovative shocking way, what should have been a harrowing experience left me slightly cold.



24 November 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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