It’s hard to describe the personal experience of mental illness to someone who hasn’t experienced it but 4:48 Psychosis does a good job. The British playwright, 28-year-old Sara Kane, famously committed suicide shortly after writing the play and it was first performed in Royal Court in 2000 a year and a half later. 4:48 Psychosis even has an indie rock song and metal album named after it and has been adapted as an opera.
In foetal position, she slowly emerges and begins twisted yoga shoulder stands, she’s almost naked, topless with a flesh coloured body stocking on the lower half; it’s a psychiatric hospital rubber room covered entirely with mirrors. T-shaped strip floor lights begin to strobe, the darkness is pierced with spotlights, there’s theatrical haze, and a reoccurring dazzling blinding whiteout “hatch opens, stark light”. This play is about the experience of madness, being on the edge of suicide.
The eerie synthesised music is by Benjamin Freeman though Troy Harrison from Workhorse Theatre Co. would have preferred him to be live on stage rather than recorded but the stage at the Old Fitz is small.
While it’s revealing in its insight and an onslaught to the senses, it’s a strange sort of entertainment. Troy Harrison is expecting people to walk out during this confronting, bleak play, the title of which derives from the time, 4:48 a.m., when Kane, in her depressed state, often woke.
There are no real characters and no narrative. Zoe Trilsbach, Lucy Heffernan and Ella Prince talk in demented chants, incoherently; it’s disconnected psychobabble with a strange format, and why are there three actors when it could have been just one delivering a monologue?
There are commonalities that any psychotic, clinically depressed psychiatric patient will relate to; self-harm, distorted body image, lists of meds and their side effects, and symptoms like can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t make love, can’t work, no interest in life.
Until Sep 9. Old Fitz Theatre, 129 Dowling St (Cnr Cathedral St), Woolloomooloo. $30-$42. Tickets & Info: www.redlineproductions.com.au
If this article raised any issues for you please visit www.beyondblue.org.au or call PH: 1300 22 4636
Reviewed by Mel Somerville.