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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

4.48 Psychosis

© Mark Fisher - published in The Guardian

4.48 Psychosis
Cumbernauld theatre, Cumbernauld
4 out of 5

There are three players in Adrian Osmond's audacious staging of Sarah Kane's swan song. The first is you. To enter the theatre, audience members are taken individually into the dark by an usher wearing night-vision goggles. Having stumbled to your seat, you are clueless as to your surroundings. It negates the social aspect of theatre and turns you inwardly on yourself.

The second player is a tape recording. Working with sound designer Kenny MacLeod, Osmond recorded Kane's text before rehearsals began. Rather than using one voice, he fragmented the script into a panoply of speakers, ranging in age, gender and class. The intention is to turn the playwright's private evocation of a mind in deep depression into something universal, reminding us that mental illness can affect anyone.

It is only after we have come to terms with all this that the third player comes flickering into view. Actor Keith Macpherson emerges from the gloom, standing in a bare room with a rope hanging from the ceiling and window frames looking out at our anonymous gaze. Whether he is calmly shaving or writhing in mental anguish, Macpherson is haunted by the tape's interior soundtrack, a man replaying the day's events in the loneliest hours of the morning.

In juxtaposing these three players the production adds an unsettling quality to an already disturbing play. Your own isolation widens the gulf between you and Macpherson even though the voices pull you in the opposite direction to suggest his experience is not unique. At the end, after the naked actor has gone to his watery grave, we do not applaud. It is partly because of the bleak subject matter, but largely because we have been made incapable of collective action. We leave, as we entered, alone.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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