As it is intended, Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis is performed extremely well, no question about it. I had some familiarity with the play from university, and I was eager to see it performed as opposed to reading it, which simply doesn’t capture the full effect. Elizabeth Whitbread is extremely solid in this one-woman performance, as directed by Kendra Jones. One wonders if it is difficult to shake off a play like this, as the subject matter is extremely upsetting. In fact, I watched and listened to the audience in the intimate venue, and the majority were crying or close to it, so kudos to present such a dark and disturbing work especially to an audience that may not have come across it before, and it is a valuable addition to the Fringe.
But, and here’s my question, should the Fringe be presenting original works only, or is this a valuable addition to the canon? Certainly, there are many questions about staging, as the play lacks stage directions, a name for the character, and is perhaps even intended for three voices, (this performance used pre-recorded tracks). In addition, the nature of the play is difficult as it presents a woman who is depressed and struggling to survive, (becoming awakened at 4:48 every day). With the knowledge that the playwright committed suicide, almost immediately after writing a play about killing herself, is it okay to present the work without this context? The decision is made not to have a curtain call, nor would it work, but I would have been interested to see a closing note in some context or another, and perhaps an invitation to seek assistance if it is necessary.
Editor’s Note: A program including mental health resources and the suicide prevention hotline will be made available at the Friday July 14th at 5:15pm showing as well as at the Saturday July 15th at 2:45pm showing of 4.48 Psychosis. If you or anyone you know may be experiencing symptoms of depression, there is help readily available. You are not alone.