People have played around with Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis before – it was adapted by Philip Venables for the Royal Opera two years ago – but Paula Garfield’s production for Deafinitely Theatre is particularly ambitious. It stages Kane’s savage, wordy final play in two languages at once: spoken English and BSL.
The play is divided up between four performers – two D/deaf patients and two hearing doctors. The text is chopped up between all of them, always signed, sometimes spoken, occasionally subtitled in fading projections.
Does it work? To an extent. It’s a dense and impenetrable staging at times, but then 4.48 Psychosis is a dense and impenetrable play, full of scattergun rage, violent frustration, and bitter humour. A torrent of feeling, often directionless but always intense.
Deafinitely’s production doesn’t capture all of the play’s nuances – its impact depends partly upon the rhythm of the play’s language – but Garfield’s direction is never less than lively, and it’s quite ingenious how she engineers the shape of Kane’s writing into short, signed scenes and skits.
Her production takes place entirely inside a Perspex-fronted box, a glass case of emotion, washed with colour by Joe Hornsby.
The two patients – Adam Bassett and Brian Duffy – howl and writhe with despair. The two doctors – Jim Fish and Matt Kyle – tease them in a patronising, expressionless monotone.
The production doesn’t always work, but it opens up this complex, potent play to an underserved audience.