Jolting and unbalanced, although not always in the appropriate way, DEM Productions version of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis was a bold effort at naturalising Sarah Kane. 4.48 Psychosis is Kane’s final work, as she killed herself after writing it (and before it was performed), which poetically charts the subject of depression and suicide. DEM Productions mixed Kane’s elegiac language with highly naturalistic scenes of dialogue and relationships, with Kane’s words mainly given in the play to actress Florence Brady (who seemed to be a representation of Kane herself), although also split amongst others in the process of the production.
The set and props made a passing attempt at a realistic everyday world but the acting was the most consummate commitment to credible naturalism. Too many blackouts, simple lighting and visible onstage scene changes prevented this production from being slick and instead it felt rather like an A-level drama devised piece at times. Some interesting techniques using recordings and answer-phone messages were noteworthy. The most effective moments of this production relied on the overall strong talent of the cast, particularly Brady who delivered Kane’s words with intelligence and awareness. Some of the relationships were more convincing than others, particularly the couple (Brady and James Skinner) who had some believable interaction and tenderness. However, for the most part I struggled to connect at all with the characters, which lost the poignancy which the scenes seemed to be trying to evoke. The production made a positive effort to foreground Kane’s writing but sometimes smothered its brilliance with clichéd and contrived scenarios that often felt a little confused.
Though the production was very well-acted and inventive at times, it lacked a full commitment to either the naturalistic aim of the company or the abstraction of Kane’s play and the combination of the two feels ill-fitting at times rather than a smooth re-appropriation of the text. In fact, at times, rather than enhancing Kane’s text it detracted from it by forcing it into a natural space where it does not belong.