Sarah Kane wrote simply and starkly about the world she saw around her… a mature and vividly theatrical response to the pain of living.
– The Guardian
Sarah Kane is best known for the way her career began, in the extraordinary public controversy over Blasted, and the way it ended: in her suicide and the posthumous production of her last play, 4.48 Psychosis. Both were shocking and defining moments in recent British theatre and their shadows are bound to haunt any reading of her work. But it would be a pity if… in attending to the mythology of the author, we were to miss the explosive theatricality, the lyricism, the emotional power, and the bleak humour that is contained within the plays themselves.
– David Greig, Sarah Kane – Complete Plays
Question: What attracted you to 4.48 Psychosis?
Tina: Jing Hong wrote to me while she was still in Exeter and asked if I would be interested in directing her in a one-woman version of 4.48 Psychosis. I’ve admired Jing’s work and directing a one-woman show was intriguing, especially one of such a visceral nature. The first time I read the play I was kind of intimidated. With subsequent readings I discovered a beautifully crafted play that creates a character who asks not to be judged but to be heard.
Jing: I learn script very slow! (laughs) But when I did 4.48 in Exeter, it took me only 10 minutes to learn Scene 9. Something resonated, something struck a chord. I learnt it down to the punctuation. It’s a difficult script. But why do it unless it’s difficult?
Question: What made you decide to approach this play as a solo piece?
Jing: I wanted to do 4.48 as a solo because to me it’s not just about psychosis, therapy and suicide, it’s also about the individual vs the majority, and the individual vs himself/herself. Everyone has a varying degree of psychosis, and at the same time, we also make up the majority, the institution. We all play different social roles within ourselves. To me, 4.48 is “a solo symphony”.
Question: What do you feel about Sarah Kane’s writing?
Jing: Her writing demands something of you. It is concise, and her writing has the discipline of being necessary. She demands equally of herself, and of the actors and directors. There is a courage and violence in her precision. Sometimes, it’s easy to say “ok lah, I can get away with this”, but there’s no way out in this script. It is what it is.
Tina: It’s powerful, evocative and brings out images and responses, not often pleasant. I prefer 4.48 Psychosis to her other plays. Through it we discover a woman with warmth, intense feeling and raw responses to the world around her. It’s not as much about death as about struggling to make sense out of living. The moments of humour, vulnerability, defiance and humility create a memorable character.
Question: Do you think that Sarah Kane’s writing has a distinctive style? And if so, how does her writing impact the way you approach the piece as a director?
Tina: There is nothing easy about her writing and it is sometimes a bit elusive. I’ll discover things in a run-through of a scene that I missed when reading and preparing the scene. In this play she balances between recalling what happened and being in the middle of it. Guiding our audience through this is a process we are moving through carefully, can’t be clever, can’t be glib, can’t try to hide or evade any moment!
Question: 4.48 Psychosis deals with very heavy subject matters like mental illness, depression, psychosis and taboo topics like suicide. What would you say to audience members not used to watching such performances?
Tina: The beauty of good theatre is that we can experience the truth of life very close and familiar to us as well as something very distant to our everyday life. I would hope that for the majority of our audience 4.48’s subject matter is far removed from them! I would hope that they will meet a memorable character, vibrant with talent, intelligence and passion and be moved by her story. Perhaps it will provoke some members of the audience, perhaps it will give some an insight what it is like to suffer from depression., perhaps some will judge that suicide is a heinous sin and frightful subject matter and perhaps others will see and be disturbed by a very different perceptions.
And if all this fails to entice, it’s a beautiful text, wonderfully acted with great production values AND it’s only an hour….c’mon, take a walk on the wild side….
About Sarah Kane (Playwright):
Sarah Kane was born in 1971. Her first play, Blasted, was produced at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1995. Her last play, 4.48 Psychosis, premiered at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in June 2000. Sarah Kane died in 1999.
The critics are now unanimous in their acclaim for the woman they had once scorned as reminding them of ‘the naughtiest girl in the class’.
About Christina Sergeant (Director):
Christina Sergeant’s theatre work in Singapore spans 25 years of performing, directing and training in professional, community and school productions. She is currently an Artist-In-School at Raffles Girls’ School and is a founder member of the Singapore Drama Educators Association.
About Kuo Jing Hong (Performer):
Kuo Jing Hong is a performer, director/choreographer and teacher. She has created her own works and collaborated with theatre practitioners since 1997. She recently obtained an MFA in Theatre Practice (University of Exeter), and is now the Resident Director of The Theatre Practice.
The Theatre Practice is presenting Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis in a solo performance by Kuo Jing Hong, directed by Christina Sergeant, at the Drama Centre Black Box from 16 – 26 July 2009.