4.48 Psychosis Review

Submitted by Alex Eades on Mon, 6 Aug '12 6.43pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Fourth Monkey
Running time

It is very hard to see 4.48 Psychosis solely as a play. It is, and always has been, so much more than that. I wish that it weren’t. We can try to pretend, as many do, that Sarah Kane’s final piece is not a suicide note: but it is.

It is a deeply personal howl of pain made all the more haunting by the fact that it appears to be written with the knowledge that she would not be around to see it performed.

Composed of twenty four sections with no specific setting, and language varying from naturalistic to highly abstract, 4.48 Psychosis is no easy state to realise. As with all of Kane’s work, to take it on requires an enormous amount of intelligence, emotional honesty and guts. 

What I witnessed this evening was something I don’t think I have ever witnessed before. It sounds rather silly to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: it appeared to me to transcend theatrical experience. It was beautiful, harrowing and unforgettable. It was perfect. It was Sarah Kane.

The main theme of the show is depression, which is not so much discussed as presented. Drawing off Kane’s own personal experience, or at least you’d assume, the show lives in a clinical and nightmarish world of deformed nurses and ideas. But it is not only about that, and, again, it never was. Love and relationships are important themes in all of her work, though frequently overlooked for the darker elements of her soul.

The central performance by the female lead is bone shaking. What you see on the stage is a woman at an end. Like a dead tree who knows her branches will never again flower. Hollow and barely alive, this is acting that is so good that it’s not acting at all, but simply (or not so simply) being.

Sarah Kane hung herself with her shoelaces in a bathroom at the London’s Kings College Hospital on February 20th, 1999, shortly after completing 4.48 Psychosis. She was 28 years old. The play is a difficult play to deal with on so many levels, being so naked, raw and truthful to her own being. The number 4.48 is said, by a friend, to be the time that she would always wake when she was in a depressed state. Others say it is the time when most suicides occur. Maybe they are both right.

But what is important is that performances of her work, such as the one this evening, continue on into the future. 4.48 Psychosis should be at the centre of the mental health discussion and is a gift of purity and truth to patients, professionals and to all.

Show Times: Aug 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25: 7:20pm,

Ticket Prices: £10.00 (£8.50) Aug 7th - Two For One