Aug 07, 2020

Real representations of depression exposed on stage

The Experimental Theatre Company at Fresno State featured a physical embodiment of depression with it’s production of “4.48 Psychosis” on April 22.

The play, written by by English playwright Sarah Kane,  focuses on three characters and their lives. The interpretation is the work of director and theatre arts major Summer Session.

The script for “4.48 Psychosis” does not call for a list of characters or settings like this production. Instead, there are 24 sections, each with lines that can be interpreted in multiple ways.

While there are no characters, certain lines are grouped together and recited by the corresponding actors. For example, many lines about a love betrayal are recited throughout the play by Dezmen Diaz, a theatre arts major in his final year at Fresno State.  

The play was first performed in London, on June 23, 2000, with only three actors. Later interpretations of the play featured only one actor reciting every line.

Kane struggled with depression throughout her life, and took her own life in 1999. Some critics to understood her final work as a suicide note.

Judging ‘4.48 Psychosis’ is difficult. How on earth do you award aesthetic points to a 75-minute suicide note? – which is what the play, written shortly before Kane’s death, effectively is,” Michael Billington, a theatre critic, said in an article for The Guardian.

In an interview with Andrew Dickson for The Guardian, Kane’s brother, Simon Kane, said that there is more to “4.48 Psychosis” than just a suicide note.

Mental illness is so often sentimentalised, or portrayed as madness – I hate that word. Sarah wanted to convey that while it may be pathological, it isn’t necessarily illogical,” Kane told The Guardian.

The play offers a serious view of depression, which contrasts some of the more glamorized representations of the topic by currently popular shows like “13 Reasons Why,” according to actors in the play.

“What I hope that people take way from this is [that they] see it from a poetic standpoint, and also see that depression cannot be played as a game,” Cha Yang, a second-year theatre major and actor in the play, said.

Other students appreciated that the work tackled a heavy topic like depression.
“It wasn’t afraid to be disturbing and I think that art should never shy away from being disturbing, especially art that has to do with mental illness so, I think that it was effective in that way,” Ashley Juskalian, a third-year music education major, said.

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