This is probably not a review. This is probably just about me.
As a female writer with bipolar disorder, Sarah Kane is both a hero and a warning. My 4:48 is a 3:18. My serial sevens were never precise. “Hatch opens, stark light”, over and over, until one day it just stops.
I read somewhere once that female writers are the most likely group of people to commit suicide. I used to wonder why that was, and what came first, the writer or the depression? Did we fall in to that pit of unescapable hell because we wrote, or did we start to write because we fell in to the pit and figured ‘well, everyone else is doing it’?
Sarah Kane is to female playwrights what Sylvia Plath is to the poets: a sister, a hero, and a warning.
“I hope what happened to Sarah doesn’t happen to me.”
“When will what happened to Sarah happen to me?”
“What if what happened to Sarah never happens to me?”
[3 diff kinds of failure in the same darn thought process!]
Theatre by the River’s production of Sarah’s last play, 4.48 Psychosis, is so fucking good. Living in its world for an hour felt more true to my own experience than anything else I have ever seen. Directed with precision by Kendra Jones, and performed with the sharpness of an ideal wrist-splitting razor by Liz Whitbread, at times it’s a little too clean and maybe it favours anguish over numbness in a way that is untrue to my own experience, but depression is deeply personal and far be it for anyone to judge that on a star scale.
Cuz damn Sarah, I agree, I want him to pay attention to me, and I want to be witnessed, and I want to be heard too, just.like.you., and we must do away with the idea that mental illness follows an understandable narrative, that is can be understood through rationality, logical, or the linear. Depression is none of those things. Depression is wild. Depression is an artist ahead of its time, of the highest caliber, at the top of its game, and it is coming for someone else next and we must do our duty and warn them. This is our marathon.
The cure for depression may lay in a pill, or in cognitive behavior therapy, or in yoga, or at the bottom of a beer bottle, or the bottom of a lake. Perhaps an accountant, or a farmer, or a teacher can look at a bottle of antidepressants and see relief… but can a writer? What came first: the writing or the sadness? A question that doesn't even matter, because both are incurable.
See, [my] depression isn’t a place. I did not land on the Island of Depression, and the cure is not to be rescued and taken to the Island of Not Depression. I am a rickety raft on a stormy sea. My job is to stay afloat. And write. And stay afloat and write. And get back on when I fall off, if I can, and write.
One day, like Sarah, like Sylvia, like Virginia, like Anne, like May, I may not be able to get back on my raft. 4.48 for Sarah, 3.18 for me.
This is probably not a review. It is probably about me. A great play does that. Hatch opens, stark light.