Unconventional “4.48 Psychosis” more public service than entertainment

4.48 Psychosis
Venue #11 – Red River College, Roblin Centre, 160 Princess St.

“4.48 Psychosis” at Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

Sometimes I have to wonder if I pick the plays or if they pick me.

The opening of “4.48 Psychosis” centers on the main character’s suicidal thoughts.

The week before the Fringe I discovered a suicide letter that was left in a book that I found donated to a little free library. It was signed, first name only, no date.

All I know is that it was written by a female using what looks like a cartridge pen. It’s on plain stationary and briefly chronicles a life of loss, abuse, loneliness and not being understood. My guess based on the details of the letter is that the person is/was 40 something.

Suicide is always an option. I don’t want see the letter writer as mentally ill, but as broken, damaged and feeling alone. I wondered when that turns into illness.

I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about mental illness from playwright Sarah Kane who committed suicide at the age of 28.

Excerpt from a suicide letter found in a library book. The writing, like her life, went downhill. /PHOTO: Heather Emberley

Psychosis: a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. Psychosis is a symptom, not a disease.

Under the direction of Kendra Jones, solo performer Elizabeth Whitbread, transports us down a black hole of despair and anguish with pharmacology as an accomplice.

Whitbread never falters as she looks audience members in the eye. A ticking time bomb she explodes with hallucinations. Intensity builds during the performance. No one dares move. Sitting in the back row I saw people holding hands for comfort. One person was overwhelmed and walked out.

Before the play began, an announcement was made that anyone who needed to talk after the show could meet with members of Theatre by the River to debrief at a nearby restaurant.

4:48 (the time Sarah Kane thought she’d like to die) is not entertainment, it is more a public service to increase awareness of what mental illness can do to a person. Through drama we enter a world of darkness. Sadly, many do not find that ray of light and hope out of the darkness. How appropriate that the theme of this year’s Fringe is “Anything Can Happen, and We Let It.” An unconventional play with an unconventional final act.

Click here for more reviews and stories from Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival 2017

Heather Emberley / Gracie Sweetstory


Heather Emberley is a repurposed school counsellor specializing in the psycho-social infrastructure of experience, an EAL teacher, freelance writer and sidekick of Gracie Sweetstory. They are stewards of a Little Free Library and their favourite word is postantineoconceptualizationalisticism.

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