Review Roundup: HYSTERIA Starring Antony Sher at the Hamstead Theatre
Antony Sher as Sigmund Freud leads a cast of David Horovitch, Adrian Schiller and Lydia Wilson in Terry Johnson's Hysteria at the Hamstead Theatre, a hilarious and insightful farce that raises intriguing questions about freud's radical revision of his theories on hysteria. The production runs Thursday 5 September to Saturday 12 October 2013.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: Antony Sher, hilariously weighing each line with the laboured intensity of a man charging much more than a penny for his thoughts, is a haunted, hunted Freud on the brink of death (cancer of the mouth was eating into him), attended by David Horovitch's lugubriously straight-faced Jewish doctor Yahuda.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard writes: Antony Sher is on top form... Sher combines gravitas with hesitancy... Lydia Wilson brings energy to Jessica... Adrian Schiller's amusing Dali strikes curious poses... and David Horovitch hits the right note as Freud's tough-minded neighbour... The staging is inventive, with an excellent set by Lez Brotherston, yet it's the play itself that impresses most... There are plenty of good jokes - not all of the kind to raise a hearty laugh, though some certainly do get such a reaction. But this is also a dark, symbolic portrait of concealment, exposure and recovery... Johnson makes a telling connection between laughter and pain and the result is a nimble, troubling piece that leaves the audience with a lot to think about.
Lyn Gardner of the Guardian says: There is far more to Johnson's confection than mere laughter and clever jokes involving underwear and Freudian slips. It shows us that farce is a very serious business, drawing on subconscious fears and long-buried repressions. This is, after all, a drama that takes us from dropped trousers to the gates ofAuschwitz, and where the naked woman in the closet is asking hard questions about why, after developing a theory that the distress of many of his female patients arose from sexual abuse within the family, Freud subsequently recanted.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph says: I remember being bowled over by Terry Johnson's Hysteria when it received its premiere at the Royal Court in 1993. Twenty years on it strikes me as a modern classic. Johnson does something remarkable here combining low farce with intellectual muscle. The result is hilariously funny, genuinely thought-provoking and at key moments, deeply affecting. In this play, Johnson proves the equal of Tom Stoppard at his best.
Sarah Hemming of the Financial Times writes: It's splendidly silly and sometimes deliriously funny, but it's also very smart. Johnson uses the staples of farce to create a stage world that both resembles a Dalí painting and has the panic of a dream as the contents of Freud's subconscious begin to invade the stage. And he gradually darkens the tone, so we realise that Freud's frantic efforts to conceal his night-time visitor symbolise fears he is trying to suppress: anxiety about the impending war, remorse at leaving his elderly Jewish sisters in Austria and, above all, deep-rooted guilt about his theories of infantile sexuality. The young female visitor may be real, may be a figment of his imagination, but either way she brings some very upsetting home truths.