Preview – 4:48 Psychosis

‘The play itself is so moving that as soon as I’d read the script I felt compelled to put it on. As 1 in 10 people will have a mental health problem at a young age, it’s a very relevant piece of theatre.’

Fresher hild bede Mental Health

David Knowles talks to Hannah Brennan, director of 4:48 Psychosis.

Why did you choose 4:48 Psychosis?

The play itself is so moving that as soon as I’d read the script I felt compelled to put it on. Given that 1 in 10 people will have a mental health problem at a young age, it’s a very relevant piece of theatre. It is going to be a beautiful performance, but hopefully not just in terms of its aesthetics. We aim to challenge people’s perceptions of mental illness, reflecting their own experiences back at them and removing them from their comfort zone.

Is it difficult working only with freshers?

Not at all! It was a brilliant opportunity for me to meet people in my own college year group, and we’ve all made new friends during the process. I’ve found directing older students a little intimidating in the past, so it most definitely helped me become an authority figure (to the extent that I have given myself the title ‘Undisputed Leader of the Play’, much to the amusement of the cast).

Can you summarise the plot?

I would say it’s not a story, but a breakdown. There are two parallel relationships explored throughout the piece, both of which collapse, but those aside, the piece aims to explore different facets of mental illness. Issues such as gender identity, dislocation, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, suicide and psychosis are either explicitly portrayed or subtly alluded to. By the end of the play, one of the male protagonists is almost certainly going to take his life. By having the audience members leave the theatre predicting that, but never seeing it, I believe the play will have a more lasting effect on them.

What has been the greatest challenge in putting on this production?

The greatest challenge was trying not to do the obvious. It is very easy when portraying ‘madness’ to rock backwards and forwards with wide eyes, but that isn’t what we are trying to achieve. We aim to both shock and cajole the audience into actually considering the normality behind mental illness. The play isn’t scary in the typical theatrical sense, but in the way everyone will be able to relate to at least one moment of the action.

Why should Durham students come and see the show?

Firstly, because the cast are so talented! The actors themselves have been on a very personal journey, with the rehearsal space seeing tears at times. Secondly, I think intrigue is a big factor. Our poster is deliberately ambiguous, and no one can quite pin down how a cast of thirteen is going to recreate a play that is typically performed with a cast of three. We have created something that is like no other piece of theatre I have ever seen, and I think anyone with the faintest interest in drama is going to want to see if we fly or fall.

Do you have a philosophy of acting and directing?

I like to improvise. I would come to certain rehearsals with absolutely no idea how we were going to perform a scene, and from there we have improvised and experimented our way to the finished product. In this production I’ve refined ideas of the cast as often as I’ve brought my own to the table, and I think that translates into the piece. It has been a very visceral process, which results in a very affecting performance.

Venue: Caedmon Hall, College of St Hild and St Bede

Performances: 9th-11th February, 19:30

Tickets: available on the door or from