BRITISH playwright and director Terry Johnson’s comedy fictionalises a real-life 1938 meeting between Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud, a year before the latter's death to cancer of the jaw.
In the nineteenth century, hysteria was a disorder that doctors were unable to pin down, due to changeable symptoms which eluded any physical explanation. A young Sigmund Freud was inspired by this spectacle, and the very origin of psychoanalysis itself became his response to the challenge posed by his hysterical patients.
Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 1994, Johnson’s farce explores the fallout when at nearly fifty years apart, two of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and original minds collide.
The play begins at night, an elderly man alone in a room wakes suddenly and speaks but no one is there. Sigmund Freud (Ged Mckenna),who has finally fled Nazi-occupied Austria after the arrest of his youngest daughter by the Gestapo, has settled in leafy Hampstead, London. The ageing man of science now in his eighties intends to spend his last days in peaceful contemplation.
Instead an exhausted Freud, trying to put his affairs in order discovers a mysterious girl at his study window. Jessica (Summer Strallen, BBC’s Land Girls) gains access by taking drastic action in the hope to find answers about the past and in doing so brings serious charges against Freud.
A bewildered and morphine confused Freud should only ask that the young girl put some clothes on and go home which would solve the problem, but instead he chooses to play the victim, looking inside himself and in doing so glimpsing a terrible truth.
Desperate to keep these damaging claims from his friend and family physician Dr Abraham Yahuda (Moray Treadwell) Freud hides the girl in his closet to prevent the respectable doctor getting caught up in the chaos.
But, when well-read student of Freud, the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (John Dorney) pays a visit to his study to discuss unusual ways to access his subconscious to influence his painting style, the planned meeting instead, turns to mayhem after he discovers the naked girl taking refuge in the closet.
As the story unravels amongst the slapstick comedy more and more questions are asked which examine the possibility that Freud doctored his case notes in order to suppress his own sexual feelings, with the play cleverly becoming an examination of Freud himself.
The cast is outstanding in this thought-provoking play which has been imaginatively researched and this new production from London Classic Theatre began its nationwide tour in Malvern.