Just a few nights left of Hysteria at the Hampstead Theatre. A revival of Terry Johnson’s hit of 20 years ago, with the awesome Anthony Sher at the helm as Freud, this play achieves the very difficult with apparent ease – moving the audience from laughter at slapstick to heart-wrenching pathos within moments. The story hinges on the appearance of a young woman in Freud’s garden who turns out to be the daughter of a previous patient Freud had, apparently, ‘cured’. Through tenacious questioning on her part, and a deeply harrowing re-enactment of her mother’s therapy, we learn how Freud changed his view on infant sexuality. Initially he thought that ‘hysteria’ (his now seemingly pejorative description of somatic symptoms suffered by women he saw) was caused by early sexual abuse. He later retracted this, replacing his theory with concerning the sub-conscious desires of the young girls’ themselves. We see how this had a devastating impact on a family, as we would expect where stories are not properly heard. But somehow we can feel this pain alongside the endearing farce going on meanwhile, with a semi-clad Dali doing his best to mawl the English language.
It’s well worth trying for returns if you can.