‘4.48 Psychosis’ review – Sarah Kane’s play gets a powerful retelling in this new bilingual production

Combining spoken English with British Sign Language (BSL), Deafinitely Theatre add a new, expressive dimension to Kane’s emotive writing in this bold exploration of mental health – ★★★★☆.

There’s an important underlying message in this version of Sarah Kane’s final play. Deaf health charity SignHealth says deaf people are twice as likely to experience mental health issues than those who are hearing, and that they struggle to access support due to communication barriers “which only make their symptoms worse”.

Photo: Becky Bailey.

As the cast navigate the small set, sealed off to the audience with three see-through panes, these barriers become physical and all the more visible. Actors Brian Duffy and Adam Bassett deliver strong performances as the two leads struggle to communicate their feelings to others.

Communication and language are, of course, so closely tied to mental health and support. In 4.48 Psychosis, we see written text projected onto the stage, floating across the screen and complimenting creative choreography and mesmerising mimed sign language. Spoken English merges with BSL to give Kane’s writing a new, expressive impact.

At times, the subtitles disappear and we are left with just sign language on the stage. For those who are not fluent in BSL, there’ll likely be times where it’s hard to figure out what’s being conveyed. Yet, when one considers the point about communication barriers, this perhaps alludes to a wider issue.

With impressive direction from Paula Garfield and strong performances from all four of the cast, Deafinitely Theatre’s latest production offers a new, raw take on an incredibly important subject.

4.48 Psychosis is now playing at the New Diorama Theatre until 13 October.

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