Brighton Fringe 2009
Venue: The Hive
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Sarah Kane’s last play is a meditation on mental and emotional extremity and sadly she committed suicide shortly after delivering the play. Although it was commissioned by Brighton based company ATC, her family wanted the first production to be at the Royal Court. So it was fitting that this student production has finally given the play a Brighton airing.
Psychosis is unusual because there is no definitive cast size – just one body of text – and the director can allocate the words to as many or as few actors as he or she sees fit. The original Royal Court version used just four actors, here Victoria Gould directs eighteen students from Dermot Keaney’s acting class. The group started as a drop in at the Brunswick pub in 2008 and this is their debut show.
When more than half of the cast have never set foot on stage before, the last thing you expect is a play about life on the edge. The potential for over-acting should make this sort of play off-limits but perhaps the fact that many of the students were dealing at the edge of their comfort zone – made this play really effective. Victoria Gould’s staging is simple and stark. Each cast member has a mask which sometimes hides their faces and gives the play an alienating and frightening aspect. There is also an effective use of the electric piano from Cyril Cottrell. Several members of the cast stood out. Denny Vans Agnew brought a lifetime as a nurse on the stage with good diction and real tears. Lorri Craig got to grips with the poetry of the piece and Liz Stapleton was very watchable.
Getting the large cast off and on the stage sometimes took too long and broke the rhythm of the play. However, the sheer numbers reminded us that this is a universal human emotion and 4.48 Psychosis more much than Sara Kane’s extended suicide note. This performance should bring many more recruits to Dermot Keaney’s class and I look forward to seeing what they do next.