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4.48 Psychosis is the final work of British playwright Sarah Kane, named for the time in the morning that she would often awake during the peaks of her depression. The main subject of the play is this depression; discussion of suicide is a key theme throughout and it should definitely carry a trigger warning for such content. Kane herself committed suicide before the first performance of the play which took place in 2000, a year and a half after her death.
Since then, the staging of the play has varied wildly, partly due to the structure of the original script which featured no setting, stage directions or characters. In December, Lancaster University Theatre Group will be staging their performance of the play and I was lucky enough to catch up with the directors ahead of their opening night to get a few details of what they have in store.
Do you fancy revealing any details on how you’re planning to stage the play?
We’ve been lucky enough to get the Nuffield Theatre as our venue, which is a huge space, so we’ve set ourselves the challenge of taking advantage of that huge space while still creating a very personal and intimate experience for the audience.
Every production has been really different. What do you plan on bringing to the script?
As with most post dramatic texts, 4.48 Psychosis has no characters or stage directions, which leaves the direction of it completely up to the individual’s interpretation, so no two performances of it are ever the same. We plan to focus more on the text itself, staying as far away from the literal as possible, using our ensemble of 8 females to deliver the language to the audience in an open and honest way.
The script leaves a lot to interpretation – do you think it’s more difficult to direct a play that leaves so many decisions for you to make, or do you prefer the creative freedom?
Although creative freedom was what we first desired when we selected the show to work with, having the creative freedom has proved much more difficult than we first thought. Because the show is so open to interpretation, ever single detail of it has to be designed by us, and designing those details takes a lot of time and hard work!
How do you plan on handling such an intense and sensitive subject matter?
We’ve made the creative decision not to stage the show in the “realistic” setting of a hospital ward so a lot of the intense and sensitive subject matter has been left to be exposed only through the language itself. We’ve deliberately put the poetic language of the text in the foreground of the piece to sensitively expose the window Sarah Kane has given us into mental illness.
3 performances of 4:48 Psychosis will be running at 8pm in the Nuffield Theatre from the 3-5th of December. Contact Lancaster University Theatre Group for ticket information.