20190914 Teatr Polski w Poznaniu Bliscy Nieznajomi f/ Marek Zakrzewski

Psychosis – Close Strangers Festival


This is a swirling mix of very dark poetry and even darker humour presented with a powerful Brechtian soundtrack. The performance is non-linear but surprisingly easy to follow (not least for me because quite a lot of it was in English). This play has elements of the last days of the Weimar republic – the cabaret style of 1930s Berlin clearly being an influence.

This is a story about the madness of women. Specifically women. About their pain and their suffering and the indifference of the world to both. This is about the equal yearning for life and for death that is in all of us, and the struggle between the two that leaves those who feel these most keenly exhausted. Too spent to live, too tired to die.

The play questions our response to madness – medicalising, battling, diminishing. But what if madness is a rational response to this world? Especially for women? Why do we fear madness and women’s madness in particular? Is it because we fear that stripped of society’s niceties they will tell the truth?

These are questions that the play throws up. Must women die a little as the play baldly states? The answer isn’t clear.

The performers inhabit the role of both doctor  (Nina Khizhna) and patient (Oksana Cherkashin) with Alexandra Malatskovska providing the music and helping both to express their inner voices. As well as doctor and patient they are also presented as lovers – and within both relationships the power dynamics shift regularly as lines blur and reform incessantly.

The staging is sparse, but each element is used. There is a video camera that is used by both doctor and patient to show themselves more closely, capturing something unguarded. There is a microphone which helps the patient to tell her story. There is a fridge which the patient hides in replete with a blow-up doll, ketchup and wine. All have their uses.

Psyschosis is not light watching, but it does have a strong element of the kind of dark humour that women share among themselves. The music is excellent – atonal when it needs to be but at the same time, kind of catchy and extremely well delivered. So while I could not recommend this as a date night (unless you have quite unusal ideas of what to do on a date) I found this play moving, illuminating and fascinating.