By Romy Foster
Deafinitely Theatre are the first deaf-lead, professional theatre company in the UK. They make work for deaf and hearing audiences by mixing BSL, visual/physical storytelling and, sometimes, captioned performances.
The style the company work in is ground-breaking. About 80% of the audience are deaf at this performance, and it makes me realise how much more accessible and inclusive theatre still needs to be. I am a hearing audience member and have no trouble understanding the show through it’s captioning, speech and BSL. There really is no excuse for theatre not to be readily available to suit everyone’s needs in 2019 when Deafinitely Theatre make it look so easy.
Despite this, 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane perhaps a poor choice of show to pick when compared to the other wonderful shows they have put on. This play has been dubbed as Kane’s ‘suicide note’, as she killed herself shortly after writing it in the same way she presents it in 4.48. Due to there not being much of a story – more of a 24-part description of how she is clinically depressed and wants to die – it leaves little room for action to progress and so the show seems to become repetitive in its physical movement. The stakes are rarely raised.
Whilst the subject of mental health does need to be explored, within this play, there is no sensitive way to do it as there isn’t much to the story beyond wanting to die. The NHS staff are made out to be very patronising, putting emphasis on the lines “it’s not your fault, you’re ill”. Parts of the show feel very cliche; the patients have cuts drawn on their arms and mime swallowing pills and hanging themselves multiple times. This being said, the tone of the production is spot-on. The use of sound and multimedia projections really work well to explain some of the parts that are not being physically and verbally told.
Overall, the production is disappointing, though. If the point is to raise awareness then there are plenty of other stories that could’ve been told, including other works by Sarah Kane. 4.48 seems like the obvious choice just to be shocking for the sake of it. It is a shame, as it’s clear the style of the company is really progressive and needed in this industry so I really hope that the next show is spectacular.
4.48 Psychosis runs through 10 November at Derby Theatre and 23 November at Wales Millennium Centre.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.