Review- Viewing 4.48- Theatre Du Pif



By Elizabeth Micci






When I entered the cool, dark black box of the Hong Kong Cultural Center’s Studio Theatre,  I felt instantly transported to the ghostly inner world of Viewing 4.48’s protagonist. This is Theatre Du Pif’s second take on Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, and their experience with the material is clear from the nuanced and precise offering I witnessed on the last evening of their performance.



The set is sparse - a wall made of a material that looks like clay or stone with a doorway cut through the middle. A black staircase leading nowhere is attached to said wall and a long walkway extends from the stage to an exit at the back of the theatre. Lights are strategically placed along the stage floor to generate larger-than-life shadows at choreographed points in the production.



The Director’s Note that each audience member receives upon entry reminded us that the production “is not so much a depiction of a psychotic state but a serious and lucid mind articulating its observations with blinding honesty.” Perhaps that is what is so unsettling about the scenes which transpire in rhythmic succession - that they offer glimpses inside a mind that hones in on run-of-the-mill anxieties we all experience but amps up the candour and intensity tenfold.



The character’s anguished contemplations are punctuated and accompanied by music that is as jarring as it is melodious. The musicians are just to the right of the stage, and as an audience member sitting in close proximity, I found it hard to maintain a normal heart rate as the music’s climbs and crescendos added massive force to a succession of performed mental breakdowns. And contributing to the lack of distance between what was happening onstage and those of us who were technically “off” was a musician who calmly set aside his instruments at various points to become a cool, collected responder to the main character’s anxious rants.



It is hard to overstate the quality of the performance given by the lead and her shadowy attendant - an actress with an identical hairstyle who flitted in and out, occasionally joining her choreographed movements. Indeed, the choreography was, to me, the most impressive part. The way the jerky movements of someone who battles compulsions and internal turmoil were woven into dance-like processions across the stage. Furthermore, the costumes - such as the white, papery robe that crinkled in response to the lead’s more dramatic movements - added to the visceral, disorienting nature of the experience.



Ultimately it was clear that Bonni Chan and her team knew the material that the play was based on intimately. As a fan of productions that demonstrate close engagement with the themes of a text rather than simply relaying the plot, I was incredibly struck by the clever touches and the brief instances of comic relief in an otherwise tensely powerful experience. If you are looking for light entertainment on a Friday night, this might not be the production for you. But if, like me, it has been a long time since you’ve witnessed a real work of art, Viewing 4.48 is both deeply impactful and satisfying.



The Director’s Note ends with gratitude for “travelling with us,” and it was indeed a transportive experience. The world of the production felt so thoroughly apart from the holiday lights and bustling shoppers of TST, and the vividly impressionistic experience stayed with me long after I left.



This production has now closed. 



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