Painful piece gets a new lease of life
Preview: 4:48 psychosis, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Nine years ago, theatre-goers were mourning the loss of a talented young playwright whose history of depression translated into intense works on the stage. Sarah Kane took her own life in February 1999, but her final play, 4:48 Psychosis, was not performed until 2000. Now, a new adaptation has surfaced and will make its way to the Edinburgh International Festival.
Director Grzegorz Jarzyna has brought his cast and crew from Warsaw for a production in Polish with English super-titles. Part suicide note, part modernist poem, Kane's final work weaves a complex tapestry. "I read this and it had a huge impact on me," says Jarzyna. "I decided to try and touch this last statement, and to challenge myself."
The play, written from the perspective of a clinically depressed person, is notoriously difficult to adapt; its script contains no references to actual characters or stage directions. So why should Jarzyna choose such a challenging work? "The drama's very open," he says. "She [Sarah Kane] didn't give me directions, tell me how to produce it or even who was speaking, so I could involve my own story."
Kane's own story ended tragically, but does 4:48 Psychosis carry a redemptive quality? Misery and pain are clearly at the forefront of the piece, but are there other qualities to the production that sometimes go unnoticed in the face of such profound unhappiness?
"You know, there are some jokes, but they're very sarcastic," Jarzyna remarks. "I couldn't find the hope in this play. She made it so that we could experience this state; experience it and be stronger. The optimistic thing is that she wrote it at all."
Of his hopes for the play, Jarzyna says, "People who saw the production in Poland told me that they were close to or had been in this depressed state. My only hope would be that people stay away from this trap of depression that Kane found herself in."
Luke Grundy, THE INDEPENDENT