It isn't like I'm not used to the ghosts that live inside plays. Ghosts of previous productions, and even ghosts of our social interaction with plays. Hell, my MA thesis was a performance of the ghosts that stop us from understanding Sophocles' Antigone. But there is something different about 4.48 Psychosis; it is the ghost of Sarah herself, and more importantly, the ghost of her suicide before the play premiered that permeate the pages, and the reception, and the reviews. it is almost impossible to find a review of the play that doesn't talk about it, and ours have been no different.
And yet I believe that the play is so much more than Sarah's suicide note. The density of the language, the cyclical references, the images and ideas that later become words; each breath, space, and sound so specifically chosen to achieve a specific artistic result. Our work on the play has been filled with discovery of just how intricate the text really is, and the result has been a production which is about the audience feeling things, not the actor. The production creates a space in which we ask the audience members to exist within this mind, amongst these bewildered fragments, for a short period of time, and demand that they empathize with how challenging this must be to deal with on your own, in hope that this will help begin to break down the stigma of mental health and open up our ability to talk to one another about the way we're feeling.
It isn't easy watching, and we are fully prepared that for some audience members, it may be overwhelming. This is okay. We aren't offended if you feel you need to leave. In fact, we're deeply honoured that our work is able to move people, and hope that you will take advantage of one of the support networks listed in our program for Toronto or Winnipeg, or that you'll reach out to your own support system.
No one has perfect mental health. The sooner we all admit to ourselves that our mental state does not define us any more than a physical state does, the sooner we can all begin to properly help one another move forward.
I believe that Sarah left us this play unaware that it would be her last. It is unfortunate that it was, but we should not read 4.48 Psychosis as an intentional final note to the symphony. It is one of many movements, and the symphony is left unfinished. We feel her humour, her power, her life force every day when the words are spoken aloud.
'Please open the curtains.'
[4.48 Psychosis has 2 more Toronto Shows - July 14 at 5:15pm and July 15 at 2:45pm, then moves to Winnipeg from July 19-30. Full show times and ticket links available at www.theatrebytheriver.com. Thank you to all who have joined us to listen, share, and think so far.]