REVIEW: 4.48 Psychosis (New Diorama Theatre) ★★★★★

Deafinitely Theatre brings its celebrated bilingual approach to Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, a lyrical and haunting play about mental health.

4.48 Psychosis has no specified setting, stage directions or characters, meaning that productions of the play vary greatly. This production explores the taboo of mental illness within the death community using a cast of four, two doctors and two deaf patients.

The cast is made up of Adam Bassett, Brian Duffy, Jim Fish and Matt Kyle who bring Kane’s heart wrenching and sometimes darkly humorous words to life. Both the deaf patients and the medical professions who struggle to understand their experience, give phenomenal performances.

Directed by Paula Garfield, 4.48 Psychosis is performed in British Sign Language and spoken English for the very first time. Garfield said ‘I am determined to present this play from a deaf perspective for the benefit and enrichment of our deaf and hearing patrons’. The mix of written and spoken English, combined with British Sign Language certainly achieves this, bringing to light the language oppression and language deprivation deaf people often face.

The use of British Sign Language, while essential in allowing deaf theatregoers the opportunity to enjoy this production, also acts as choreography for the actors on stage, allowing their beautiful movements to punctuate their spoken words.

The stage is covered by a transparent screen giving the audience the illusion that we are viewing life inside a psychiatric ward through a window. The use of lighting and music to create and relieve tension is incredibly effective, keeping the pace of the show moving nicely.

Paula Garfield’s adaption of Kane’s play does not make for comfortable viewing, but it does shed light on a taboo within the deaf community, mental health. Using Kane’s poetic final play and infusing it with British Sign Language was a genius way of highlighting this issue for hearing and deaf theatregoers alike.

Reviewed by Ben McDonald
Photo: Becky Bailey

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