[author-post-rating] (2/5 stars) In this re-imagining of Sarah Kane’s famous play, first performed posthumously in 2000, DEM Productions attempts to turn this dark, highly-stylised swan song into something altogether more naturalistic. It’s an interesting intention, but not entirely successful.
4.48 Psychosis is known for being stageable in a variety of ways. Kane’s final play, about the mental illness that was to end her life, reads like a poem, and can be staged with between one and several actors, as she left it fairly open to interpretation. After attributing the text’s otherwise unattributed voices to several people, including a male lover and an unidentifiable woman, the main addition here seems to be a group of friends with who drift in and out, chatting over wine about Angela who’s had a baby and teachers from school.
Presumably these scenes are added in an attempt to pit the central character’s illness against the reality of existence, her not-coping against their blustering acceptance of all life’s horrors and tragedies, because they are well and she is not. It’s an interesting idea, but doesn’t really come off.
Kane wrote 4.48 Psychosis with such towering intensity and passionate rage that it is a world in itself, a world where you are asked to comprehend a mental state that is by its nature incomprehensible, because her mind is not working as it should. Injecting all the banalities of everyday life into this invalidates both strands; put against each other, the group’s conversations look petty and trivial, while her misery looks excessive in contrast and almost petulant. To be mentally ill is to be completely isolated from reality – but we need to accompany her there, and DEM Productions’s inability to let the real world go keeps its audience firmly rooted in the normal and the sane, peering in at a woman’s suffering without really comprehending it.
A further problem is that you simply cannot hear the actors for most of the play, and it’s a wordy script they’re grappling with. Some combination of the fans being kept on in the stiflingly hot venue and the cast seeming to forget, half the time, that they are speaking for an audience and not just each other, makes a good half of the play fairly inaudible.
Florence Brady turns in an impressive enough performance in the central role for you to want to see her in a normal production of the show; she pitches a difficult role well and her utter despair is completely believable. Unfortunately, Brady alone can’t save proceedings from being distinctly underwhelming.
4.48 Psychosis can be seen at 20.20 at C Nova every day until 26 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.