Reviewed: 4:48 Psychosis
4:48 Psychosis is not what you would expect from a freshers play;
This certainly was not what you would expect from a freshers play; with scenes of violent passion, suicidal discourse and depictions of life at breaking point, Hill Bede Theatre pushes the boundaries of Durham drama with their staggering interpretation of Sarah Kane’s ‘4:48 Psychosis.’
The stage area spilled into the seating sections, allowing the actors to mingle with audience members and adding to the on edge vibe. Throughout the show, and interval, Kirsty McLaren remained tied up to a rope and directly positioned above the stage, serving as an ominous reminder of the mental chains constricting the characters. With her departure came the conclusion of the play, and as I applauded the cast I began the slow journey back to normality – one which remains incomplete, for as I type I find myself still burdened by the macabre themes explored in the performance.
The actors must be commended on their ability to inhabit such psychologically frail characters in such close proximity to the audience. Notably, Lewis Meade’s ability to transform into something wild and enraged so quickly and believably was outstanding. He stopped the show from dragging and kept us all on our toes; his performance was the stuff spine tingles are made of. Similarly the relationship between Joe Skelton and Michael McLauchlen was beautifully exacted, with Skelton moving seamlessly through the different stages of his psychosis and bringing us along with him.
Relationships between characters were generally explored well. Like Meade, Alex Morgan used his relationship with Anna Feroldi as a way of shifting from a position of authority and level headedness, to a mental state which reflected the minds of his patients. Morgan skilfully embodied the corrupted doctor and his impassioned breakdown was one of the highlights of the show. However, there were moments when I found that the conversation scenes drastically lowered the pace and tension of the piece, but that said, these sections served to make other scenes more intense.
Director Hannah Brennan placed a large focus on having the audience involved with the production. At times this was a bizarre and wonderful experience, through which I found myself able to more clearly understand the inner workings of these character’s psyches. However, the scratching on the backs of chairs and breathing down people’s necks was on occasion incredibly distracting, and I found my attention was drawn away from the narrative and across the room to the gentleman awkwardly sinking into his seat, attempting to escape the glare of the actor in the seat next to him.
The use of sound was, for me, the selling point of the show. Brennan managed to musically bottle up the emotions and sensations of the characters, and dramatic scenes were boosted with a background symphony of chanting, screaming and muttering. It was in these moments, surrounded by the melodies of a mental breakdown, that I was really enthralled by the production.
Whilst it would not be my normal choice of theatre and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone hoping to get a decent night’s sleep afterwards, if you want to journey inside the world of mental illness and experience the intensity of a life shadowed by unbearable delusions and states of depression, then I would highly recommend seeing this production.