Hysteria: ★★★★ from Metro
Posted on 17 September 2013.
Posted in: Theatre Reviews
By Sam Marlowe, Metro
‘Is serious now, yes?’ asks Salvador Dalí, standing, absurdly dignified, in his underpants. ‘I go put my trousers on.’
Terry Johnson’s 1993 play is a dazzling comic quick-change act: one moment broadly farcical, the next a surreal nightmare. In evoking the proximity of laughter and grief – the two faces of the heightened state of hysteria – it leaves you shocked, delighted and appalled.
The author’s own production is acted with consummate sparkling skill and startling poignance by a cast led by Antony Sher as a haunted Sigmund Freud whose head is filled with horrors.
Freudian theory and Dalí-esque imagery twine sinuously through scintillating dialogue that nimbly explores issues of faith, identity, guilt, sexual politics and the ethics of psychoanalysis.
The toxic pall of the Holocaust hangs over Freud’s room, which in Lez Brotherston’s design is the colour of dried blood, and in a stunning, climactic coup de théâtre, is transformed into a dreamscape of grotesque terrors. Sher is riveting, part dictatorial and part pitiful, confused, fearful old man. Brilliantly discomfiting, humane and horribly funny.