New company, Animaus Theatre, aims to give you a look inside the fractured psyche of a young woman dealing with depression in their remount of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis.
Should you see it
Among the definitions of raw are “painfully exposed” and “brutally frank” which both adequately describe the tone and themes of 4.48 Psychosis – written by British playwright Sarah Kane shortly before her own suicide. Ostensibly set in a mental institution, the play lays bare the tortured mind of Patient 448. 4.48 Psychosis abandons any traditional narrative sense, instead dealing in themes and imagery such as the effects of medication, causes of depression & desires of the depressed, self harm, and suicide. It’s effectively a 75-minute snapshot of the mind of somebody suffering with severe clinical depression.
The difficult thing when it comes to working with an abstract text is keeping an audience engaged without the safety net of a naturally embedded plot progression. The burden, more than ever, falls upon performance and directorial choices – which were exceptional here.
Lydia Riding was deeply entrancing as Patient 4.48, drawing you into the anguish and occasional peace of her troubled mind. After seeing a UOttawa production of If We Were Birds in 2012, I remrked that Lydia Riding and co-star Annik Welsh were stars. I said that we could expect great things from these two. With this performance by Riding and Welsh’s recent turn as the one-armed Herald in Marat/Sade ranking as two of the most memorable and forceful performances to hit Ottawa stages in a good while, I stand by that assessment.
Riding was well-supported by Aaron Williams as 448’s doctor and Alexandra Isenor as a shadow-aspect of 448’s psyche, allowing for interesting self-interactions.
Director Pamela Feghali presented a strong coherent vision, delivering 4.48 Psychosis with the house as observers in the asylum of 448’s mind. This is reflected not only in the performances of her actors and clever representative staging but also in her use of the space. Studio Lenoard Beaulne, like Riding and the psyche of Patient 448, was laid bare. It was made into a stark empty room, with no curtains or drapes or any of the acoutrements which denote live theatre. Even the tech booth was brought into the realiy of 4.48 Psyhosis through putting the SM and tech in lab coats, turning the space into an observation room.
While this style of theatre and this type of story-telling won’t be for everybody, I’m an advocate for and a fan of challenging work and hard drama and Animaus Theatre’s production of 4.48 Psychosis didn’t disappoint.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think? Could you get into 4.48 Psyhosis or did the lack of traditional narrative structure keep you from getting invested? Are you a fan of dark and challenging theatre? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.