K.B Morris is heading up a new production of a bold Sarah Kane piece, 4.48 Psychosis Which is set to play one date only at the Church of the Holy Innocents on May 25th 2019 (tickets here). I caught up with Morris to find out what’s in store for her audience…
Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis is one hell of a choice for a new production. What drew you to this piece?
I read 4:48 Psychosis about ten years ago and it really resonated with me. What draws me to it is its emotional rawness and fluidity. There aren’t many stage directions or clearly defined characters so it’s a show that can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
How would you characterise the show?
The show is interpreted by Kane as being about a ‘psychotic breakdown’ where a person doesn’t know where they end and where an object such as a table begins. That’s a pretty terrifying state of mind to be in. Mental illness is unique to the sufferer and this show, because of its fluidity, is open to interpretation. The show to me is about many things: despair, existential threat, death, life, love, grief and so on. It contains myriad themes.
The structure of 4:48 Psychosis is pretty singular. How have you approached the 24 ‘fragments’ – do you feel the fragments must remain linear for example, or have you revised the text structurally?
The production is an amateur production which means that I am constrained with what I can do with the text. Therefore I am putting on the text as it was written. I also want to respect Kane’s vision and would not want to change how she saw the play.
Diamond Productions are performing 4:48 Psychosis in darkness. You have said that this approach seeks to give the audience greater grasp of Kane’s writing and to place them in a parallel state of vulnerability. What would you say to potential audiences who might be uncertain of turning up to a show like this?
This is immersive theatre and it isn’t for everyone. It will be very intense and will affect each member of the audience differently. Everyone will take away something unique to them. I wanted to demonstrate how it feels to be alone, vulnerable and suffering late at night when it feels as though you are the only person awake on earth. Fear of the dark is a primal instinct because we are at our most vulnerable. It also places Kane’s text at the forefront because there is no distraction from her words.
With the emphasis on performing in darkness, how does the show take shape in terms of cast, characters and narrative? Is this lyrical performance in the abstract or is there a central narrative thread to follow?
The central narrative is a ‘psychotic breakdown’ where the protagonist or protagonists lose touch with reality and recede further from sanity. There will be ambient sound guiding the audience through various ‘scenes’ but it is minimal so please don’t come along expecting a soundtrack. The point of the show is for your own imagination and your own emotions to do the work. There are three actors who are acting the show live into microphones which are transmitted around a church. It’s not lyrical but acted as it would be on a stage with the actors interacting with each other via the text. They aren’t acting the play out in the dark.
Would you say your production retains the hard-hitting approach of Kane’s ‘in-yer-face’ style? Have you made any edits?
I’m following Kane’s text as she wrote it. It is 75 minutes long and I haven’t made any edits. I believe 4:48Psychosis retains elements of all Kane’s work but with a more inward focus perhaps. It’s hard hitting in an emotional sense and I expect it to have a very visceral affect on the audience.
Have you delved far into other adaptations during the creative process or have you approached the text without such potential influences?
I have approached the text as I envisaged it when I first read it and in that sense it’s very personal to me. I haven’t taken other adaptations into account because that isn’t how I see the work, that’s how someone else has interpreted it. I also believe this is the first audio immersive interpretation and because people can’t see what’s happening it has to be directed very carefully taking that into account.
Your production makes use of ambient sound. In darkness, sound design is surely more influential than it might otherwise be. Who is responsible for this and how have they approached the challenge?
A London based artist called Joanna Ishikawa is putting the ambient sound together according to direction. Joanna has experience in audio installation and is particularly influenced by the visceral use of sound. The sound is not meant to overwhelm the text but to guide the audience through it.
The show has trigger warnings for a variety of content. Many of the trigger warnings refer to well-known symptoms of poor mental health. Did this text appeal in the light of the heightening profile of mental health awareness?
I want to make absolutely certain that people are not triggered by the production because it will be very intense and there is no interval which means that someone having a panic attack for example will find it difficult to exit in the dark. There is absolutely no respite and the audience will have to stay with it through its entirety. The dark means that there is no way to ground yourself throughout the production, no way to escape and that will be hard going at times. It’s a very emotional and at times, harrowing play and the audience will be in the dark experiencing that.
Part of the reason I wanted to explore the text in this way was for people to go through it with the characters, to feel vulnerable, to feel as though they are hearing voices, to feel alone in the dark. In that sense it should help those who haven’t experienced common mental health issues such as depression or anxiety to really understand what that feels like for those who have.
What would you say the appeal of 4:48 Psychosis is in 2019?
4:48 Psychosis will always appeal to theatre goers and directors alike because it is open to such a variety of interpretation and because it is so personal. The play is not grounded in any one era so it can’t ‘date’ as such. People are always going to be overwhelmed, vulnerable, alone, lost and in love and as such will continue to both produce and see the play.
Do you feel the piece carries a message?
The play explores a range of universal themes but like all Kane’s work it is about love and the power of love to uplift as well as destroy.
Finally, why should people come to see this production?
It’s an opportunity to experience a truly unique and very powerful piece of theatre. A chance not to be missed.
So there you have it. 4.48 Psychosis plays the Church of the Holy Innocents on May 25th 2019 and you can find tickets here.