7 September 2013

Hysteria at the Hampstead Theatre

Hysteria at the Hampstead Theatre promised much but failed to deliver most of it.

The theatre itself is one of my favourites as it has the unusual combination of being small and intimate and also very comfortable when the former normally means wooden benches and the later means something large in the West End. And a good theatre does not need much to attract me to it and this time the key words were "Sigmund Freud", "Salvador Dalí", "Antony Sher" and "farce".

The show was popular enough and I got a seat in the very back row but it is a small well-designed theatre and the view was fine.

A large chunk of what followed was farce, and passably funny farce too. What worked less well was having Freud as the lead. For example, in one scene Freud carried a model of a large penis as if it was his own which I thought was a bit lame and definitely not in character.

The second theme came via the naked woman hiding in the bathroom who, it turned out, knew Freud's work very well and she challenged him on some of it and how he had changed his mind.

It was an interesting theme but an odd one to include in a farce.

The third theme came with the introduction of Dali which gave an excuse to add some surreal elements, such as the famous melting clocks. I found this less interesting than the other themes and it seemed a cheap excuse to take the farce in to the surreal.

There were some good ideas in the play but the themes clashed rather than complimented and there were too many obvious cheap jokes in the farce. There were plenty of funny moments and, overall, Hysteria was entertaining. However, it just had too many flaws to be anything more than that.

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