Hysteria at the Greenwich Theatre review ****



Greenwich Theatre, 29th April 2017

I will keep this short and sweet. Whilst this production by London Classic Theatre has been and gone from Greenwich it is still touring with dates in Oldham, Yeovil, Newtown, Aberdare, Dunstable and Colchester.

In my view this kind of touring productions deserves your support. These people work very hard doing something they love. I am not saying you should toddle off to anything just because it is on the doorstep. You need an interest in the play on show for sure. But if there is the merest inkling please take a look.

This was not, I fear, a packed house and Greenwich Theatre is in need of a little TLC which I hope will be forthcoming. This is a marvellous play which was very competently delivered and it was a shame there weren’t more bums on seats to see it – mind you it was a Saturday matinee to be fair.

I went with the SO, BUD and KCK last year to see the all-star production of Dead Funny in the West End which was an excellent account of Terry Johnson’s meta-comedy which he also directed. And I am praying that Mr Johnson’s Insignificance will be revived at some point as I am now a firm fan.

Hysteria imagines what happened when Sigmund Freud (played by Ged McKenna) met Salvador Dali (John Dorney) in 1938 in Freud’s London home (just before his death in 1939). Freud is resting but is startled by Jessica (Summer Strallen who I gather normally plys her trade in musicals), who turns out to be the daughter of one of his previous patients, who was the basis for his theories of presexual shock. Jessica gets out of her wet clothes (including Freudian slip obviously), hides in closet (!!), Freud’s doctor, Abraham Yahuda (Moray Treadwell) arrives, followed later by Dali, played in a deliberately over the top way. This is the set-up for a visual farce, which uses language and props to simultaneously examine Dali’s art and Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis. To give you an idea, at the point Dali enters, events have conspired to leave Freud holding a snail infested bicycle, with a bandage on his head which looks like rabbit ears, and his arm in a wellington boot. Geddit.

It is unabashedly a clever play and has Johnson’s trademark veering between low(ish) comedy, high(ish) intellectualism and dark insight often in the same scene. It examines many of the criticisms of Freud’s theories and Dali’s surrealist art – it rams this home through Yahuda’s criticism of Freud questioning the “Moses myth”. It demands attention. You will learn a lot – I had no idea about Freud’s turn on a sixpence on who bears “responsibility” for sexual abuse. But it also has some proper laugh out loud funny bits. And it does go from A to B – or maybe it doesn’t as the ending suggests a dream. It probably helps if you have a tiny bit of insight into the work of the two key characters. But it has a structure (farce) which is constant – which makes it easier to digest than early Stoppard the closest parallel I know.

I am sure there have been, and may well be, higher profile productions of the play but this audience member for one is grateful to LCT for taking it on. Thanks.

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