If you’re enjoying our content, then please consider becoming a patreon with every penny going towards keeping paying AYT going and paying our very talented team of young creatives. For more information, visit: https://www.patreon.com/ayoungertheatre.
It’s often been speculated that Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis is really a suicide note rather than a play. Carmina Masoliver’s spoken word “epic poem” — inspired by Kane’s piece — also diverges from theatrical form to reflect on suicide, but imagines the aftermath from the perspective of the victim’s lover. Although its imitative effort limits fresh insight from the actual artist, Masoliver, herself, it’s a timely revisit of the original themes of disconnect and fractured life.
Taking place on the tube, Masoliver’s monologue flashes through everyday experiences in morning showers and commutes, forming a daily routine intermittently interrupted by twinges of agony. As she spirals into the disorientation of loss, she alternates between letting these feelings resonate widely as broad strokes, and directing the torment at “you” or, slightly jarringly, “Sarah”.
Kane is frequently invoked in theatre to add authority to expressions of disillusioned rage, depression and despair, but Masoliver paints this context with such specific details. Masoliver’s impressions consequently lose their individuality and emotion in being so shackled to Kane’s legacy, rather than leaving their own mark on these themes.
The most striking stylistic choices and language are patently indebted to Kane: juxtaposing the concrete and abstract, the inexplicit references, the scattered chronology. They nonetheless prove effective in rendering a dissociation from a world which feels unrecognisable when marred by loss. She uses the central metaphor of the tube — both implied by the title and explicitly mentioned — to nicely capture the forward momentum of life going on, and the confusion and exasperation of reconciling this against such devastation.
Masoliver also conveys the persona being haunted by these memories with her long sentences without pause, creating a breathless anxiety. There’s a soft vulnerability and sympathy in her voice which carries the weight of loneliness, and something slightly ethereal, like a haze which grows out of grief and loss. However, the regularity of her rhythm, pitch and intonation makes her reading feel mannered and deliberate, rather than natural and spontaneous.
It’s difficult to evoke the sensation of being “held in arms” through audio, but Masoliver finds nice images such as “we were a moon-made cartwheel.” There’s also a lingering interest in the body and the physical or human, rapidly listing facial features as she desperately tries to find a close intimacy and grounding “anchor”. The recurrent symbol of the circle is used to represent these cycles she’s now stuck in: of abandonment and healing, of life and death, of losing someone and trying to love again when “forever” is cut short.
While recounting similar experiences interestingly implies we’re confined to the same suffering in our fallibilities of needing connection and love, it’s ultimately too much like a recapitulation of Kane’s piece. Masoliver retreads the same lines well, but embodies Kane’s spirit without developing it into something more distinctively personal. Kane never tempered her own commentary, and Masoliver’s piece would more strongly strike the pulse of our current social consciousness with more of hers.
Circles was part of Living Record’s digital festival from 17th January – 22nd February for more information see Living Record Festival’s website.