Review: Hysteria by Terry Johnson at the Hampstead theatre

Antony Sher (Freud), Lydia Wilson (Jessica) and Adrian Schiller (Dali) in Hysteria

Antony Sher (Freud), Lydia Wilson (Jessica) and Adrian Schiller (Dali) in Hysteria

The current production of Terry Johnson’s Hysteria, directed by the playwright, started its life in Bath last year, before a UK tour and performances at the Hampstead theatre this September. Antony Sher and David Horovitch have been in the cast from the start, while in the London performances Lydia Wilson and Adrian Schiller have replaced Indira Varma and Will Kean. A play capable of attracting actors of that calibre carries high expectations, and sadly in this instance they are not met.

The play is the story of Sigmund Freud meeting Salvador Dali in London towards the end of his life. A woman persistent in meeting Freud and Freud’s physician are added to the story, as is the shadow of Nazi Europe. Continue reading

Review: The Captain of Kopenick, by Carl Zuckmayer at the National Theatre (Olivier)

captainofKopenickposterI have a peculiar fascination with record keeping. Some of it is professional, some of it is the anarchist in me. If you know how it’s supposed to work, you know all the parts that simply don’t. Life is an adventure, not a shopping list.

A small record keeping error lies at the heart of Carl Zuckmayer’s The Captain of Köpenick. Wilhelm Voigt, opportunistic small time crook in Kaiser’s Germany, doesn’t have official papers to prove he exists. Under different circumstances, he may have been pleased: his success as petty thief relies on flying under the radar. But he is a little bit tired. His personal resilience, among much running and evading, is waning. He wants to leave his mark, and that mark involves being formally recognised as a person, not as an administrative oddity. (As an interesting aside, the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife relied on impeccable public record keeping in Britain of the same period to give closure to one of its most destitute characters. In early 20th century Britain, you formally exist even if you are a baby dying of abject poverty). Continue reading