I doubt you’ll see a more thought-provoking, or technically accomplished piece this year. … Osmond has produced and intense, and emotionally draining experience. … A beautifully constructed production.
It’s an unforgettable theatrical experience.
Adrian Osmond’s remarkable staging of Sarah Kane’s final play … Critics have been unanimous in their praise and tickets are sure to be at a premium.
Osmond has created a fascinating concept out of Kane’s fragmented script… By the time we come blinking into the light, body, mind and soul are shattered as one in a devastating piece of work.
Osmond…has created a truly memorable response to this infinitely re-interpretable text.
4.48 Psychosis was Sarah Kane’s last play. She killed herself in a hospital in 1999 at the age of 28. The text is an exploration of severe depression.
The script does not specify characters or cast size. It dispenses with conventional plot, and, other than several indications for periods of silence, it contains no stage directions. There is even one passage that is printed on the page as a cloud of numbers.
The following volunteers gave their voices to this production:
Andromaque Barbout, Kayleigh Brennan, Crawford Buchan, Daniel Cahill, Rona Cheyne, Maria Chirinos, Calum Cormack, Barbara Daner, Fred Emden, Adam Feeney, Daniel Fons, Charles Friell, Harry Glass, Blair Hanlon, Sarah Henderson, Rosie Kane, Stephen M Lawrie, Sinead McAree, Sarah McIlraith, Shona McNeil, C E Maguire, Elliott Osmond, Katja Osswald, Madlena Pavlova, Norha Maritza Rodriguez, Remzije Sherifi, Mark Smith, Wendy Sommerville, Kate Tough, Jacqueline Woods, and The Sirens of Titan Choir.
We wanted to create a unique theatrical experience that could be wholly immersive for the audience… that would make their emotions the central focus, and allow them to delve into these privately during the performance.
In exploring how to stage 4.48 Psychosis, for myself the central dilemma was how to be true to the intensity and the honesty of the text… how to avoid the pitfall of watching actors pretend to be suffering from depression. Kane really experienced it; so it was our duty to give the audience a glimpse inside what that might feel like.
There were four key decisions that we made.
The first was to cast just one performer. In order to move the work beyond any autobiographical connotations, it needed be someone that could embody the spirit of an “everyman”, and operate more as an extension of each spectator than as an individual character.
The second decision was to have that actor speak only a few lines of the entire text. Instead, 31 volunteers and a choir were recorded speaking various sections; and this host of voices formed the basis of a soundscape that enveloped the audience on all sides. We included anyone that wished to participate. The volunteers ranged in age from 3 through to 73, and represented a range of cultures and backgrounds. Some had personal experience of depression, while others worked within the mental health sector (including two psychiatrists). Sometimes voices were spliced together in a way that created conversations between people that had never met, as their contributions were recorded in separate locations on different days.
One aim of this approach was to reproduce the sensation of a mind teeming with competing thoughts. Another aspect was that, in representing a wider community, we could emphasise the fact that people from all areas of society can be affected by mental illness.
The third decision was to perform in the round, with the audience surrounding the skeletal frame of a room. In conventional auditoriums, with people sitting right next to you, theatre and cinema can feel too cosy sometimes. Here, each person was placed separately around the perimeter of the space, each chair a distance apart; and this isolation enabled people to have a more intense experience.
The final decision was to operate from a base point of total darkness. Thanks to emergency exit signs, light leaks, and blinking LEDs, it’s rare to experience actual darkness in the theatre; in fact, it’s unusual to experience it anywhere! Ushers wearing night-vision goggles guided the audience to their seats. It was disorienting and unsettling. Quite a few times over the course of the performance the light would disappear completely, leaving the audience alone to experience the sounds around them….
Kenny MacLeod created the soundscape before rehearsals began. So we entered Day One with the curious experience of knowing the exact length of our show, down to the second. Then it was a matter of operating within that frame, and exploring what the words and sounds inspired. On that first day of rehearsals, actor Keith Macpherson actually improvised an entire “run”…
The logistics were incredibly demanding, particularly for Keith. Much of the final week of rehearsals was spent with Keith blindfolded, practising complex scene changes that he needed to achieve in pitch black over a fixed number of seconds.
The production culminated with a sequence in which the man descended into the ground through a window in the floor. As rain poured down on his naked body, he slipped out of view, and left behind the flickering of a solitary candle, which lit the audience’s departure.
Out of all the acclaim that the production received, the most gratifying reaction came from one anonymous audience response form. For me, these words were worth every moment that I had invested:
“I’m going to beat my depression. This is a brilliant tool to put people off suicide. It inspires u to live.”