4.48 Psychosis Explores Peculiarities of Human Mind

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“4.48 Psychosis” focuses around themes of depression and lack of hope.

“4.48 Psychosis” focuses around themes of depression and lack of hope.

John Schurer

John Schurer

“4.48 Psychosis” focuses around themes of depression and lack of hope.

By MONIQUE SANTOSO

On Thursday, April 19 through Saturday, April 21, the Hepburn Zoo Theatre transformed into Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis,” widely thought of as her suicide note, for Roxy Adviento’s ’18 senior work and Stephen Chen’s Intermediate Independent 500-level lighting project.

The play was Kane’s last and its initial production began posthumous at the Royal Court in 2000. In 2016 an operatic adaptation commissioned by the Royal Opera and written by British composer Philip Venable was staged at the Lyric Hammersmith.

The play is sequenced in elliptical fragments, fractured and emotionally lacerating, portraying a mind on the brink of a suicidal episode, raging against physicians who do not (and will not) understand. However, it is more than just Kane’s last play. It is also, according to Adviento, “about a universal pain and it’s varying intensities shared among us all. It’s a fight for sanity and an overwhelming need for genuine connection.”

Unlike a conventional play, which includes scenes and acts to demonstrate its transition, the progression of this play was demonstrated through “——-“. Adviento explained that it was this lack of transition, characters and stage direction that drew her in to direct the play for her senior thesis.

 The play begins with Caleb Green ’19 sitting through a psychiatric meeting. He looks distraught and in pain, yet still is bombarded with questions. The play progresses to tell a story of four people, playing the various parts of a single character with blurring lines of reality.

Over the span of 75 minutes, the characters deal with contemplations and discussions of suicide and lack of hope. Although the play lacks strict narrative and timeline, desires of the depressed mind come to surface. The longing for love and understanding and the lack of them from society take a toll on the characters’ life. They seek solace in different channels from religion to medication to love, yet fail in finding it.

“4.48 Psychosis” represents a time in her life when Kane was in her depressive state, a time when the brain’s chemical imbalance peaks, when she was visited by depression as well as sobering clarity. The pain emulates a striking journey inside a beautiful but tortured soul. It was saddening to see that irrespective of the treatments she received, she was beyond help and had made up her mind on suicide.

“This play is more than about the ongoing abyss of misery and sadness,” said costume designer Mary Baillie ’18. Undoubtedly, the lyrics and dialogue of the play were carefully weighed and added a lyrical effect to the play. The action of sharing clothes of the characters symbolically represents not only “the same person and her distinct identities,” said Baillie but also how the way that individuals grieve is so codependent.

The most jarring scene was perhaps the end, where the characters reveal their determination, not to get better, but to commit suicide: “Please don’t cut me up to find out how I died, I’ll tell you how I died, one hundred lofepramine […] slit, hung, it is done.” However, this is contrasted with the last line of the play: “please open the curtains.” This line could be seen as the production opening the curtains at the end to allow a new play to take to take the stage. It signifies how in the broader context of our lives, we need to be able to find positivity in the face of depression and dependency.

The show’s leaflets contained a poem by Mary Oliver, entitled “Wild Geese” for a different perspective, offering audiences advice on how to live a worthwhile life. Irrespective of the loneliness that one faces, one simply needs to look outside to see that nature, a living entity, encompasses them and that they have a place amongst everything in this world, no matter the troubles that come with finding it. Overall, this play functions as not only a critique on mental health and its institutions, but also a reminder to find hope in struggling times and to remember that the world around us is still welcoming, even in bleak situations.

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4.48 Psychosis Explores Peculiarities of Human Mind