To be frank, I don’t know much about psychosis, or mental illness in general. And given the recent attempt to raise awareness via social media, I am not alone in my ignorance.
4.48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s final play, is a reminder of our communal ignorance – a reminder that most of us don’t understand what it is to suffer from psychosis. Nor do we understand how to interact with those who do. This play is described as a “visual depiction of the human mind in turmoil”. And isn’t it just.
Performed in the Crypt Gallery, below St Pancras Church – a perfect setting – this play is better described as an experience. The viewer lives what it is to be inside the mind of someone afflicted by psychosis.
It is not a performance for the faint-hearted. The actresses – Alisha Iyer, Miranda Teed, Cora Burridge, and Helena Gadelha – roam and twist their way through the vaulted crypt. They move almost as a single entity and speak often in unison, though not perfectly. This reinforces the unsettling feeling of being trapped in someone else’s anxious memories, distorted by having been played over and over again.
The crypt has become the squishy innards of the mind and the audience follows the performers through the brain. We are shuffled into dark corners and pushed up against walls. At times it is frightening; sometimes suffocating. We are made witness to the exaggerated and irrational thought processes of psychosis. It is very effective.