Deeply moving and memorable
By Margaret Wieringa
Sometimes, theatre is heavy; weighed down by the topic, by the experiences of those making it and those watching it; weighed down with every line uttered, every movement. 4:48 Psychosis is one of those pieces: heavy, and difficult – and wonderful.
Written by British playwright Sarah Kane, it explores mental illness in a variety of forms, including self-harm and suicide. Knowing that the playwright herself tragically committed suicide without ever seeing the work performed adds a whole extra weight and emotion to the performance.
The show is made up of twenty-four sections that seamlessly flow from one to another, moving through naturalistic conversations to more abstract movement pieces, and back. The script gives no specific settings or characters, but it felt to me that there were constants. Director Kendall-Jane Rundle seems to have interpreted the work to have a single patient, a doctor and two others – internal representations of the patient or, at times, possibly forces outside of the patient. Sometimes the patient is aware of them, other times not. The Metanoia Theatre was sparse, allowing the actors to transform the space throughout. Lighting designer Shane Grant used bare bulbs hung around the space at varying heights and these were attributed with meaning throughout – although sometimes, a light bulb is just a light bulb.
Kendall-Jane Rundle not only directed this performance but played the character of the patient and was magnificent in this role. She was subtle and intense, humorous on occasion, and so very real. The script has lines that are filled with overwrought poetry that could easily be melodramatic and possibly ridiculous, but Rundle delivered them with such truth that they worked. At times, it was difficult to hear her, but I felt even this was planned. Jessica Stevens and Alisha Eddy played off each other as the two mysterious characters, often echoing the patient, moving through the space, sometimes still or only very subtly moving. Their performances, both individual and together, were exactly what was needed – strong at times, but able to almost disappear altogether. As the doctor figure, Jeff Wortman was able to infuse each scene with hidden depth. While acting calm and collected, there was a sense that the character was repressing fear or frustration or anger, although every now and then, the professional facade slipped. Wortman made the character not just a tool to represent those attempting to support, help, even cure people with mental illness, but someone who was also a full person, even though we never got a name or much beyond.
Bare Naked Theatre is a new company to Melbourne, set up by Kendall-Jane Rundle. With a first show as powerful and poignant as 4:48 Psychosis, they are a company to look out for.
Where: Metanoia Theatre at the Brunswick Institute, 270 Sydney Rd Brunswick
When: Wednesday June 29 to Saturday July 2, 8pm
Tickets: Full $30/ Conc $25
Bookings: metanoiatheatre.com or called 9387 3376
If you know someone struggling with mental illness, this production recommends visiting www.sane.org for helpline assistance, information, and donations.