By Rebecca Wallersteiner
Sir Antony Sher stars as a compelling Sigmund Freud in Terry Johnson’s delicious revival of Hysteria, which is currently running at the Hampstead Theatre.
It’s 1938 and Freud is his 80s, having escaped from Nazi Vienna to Hampstead. Sher makes a convincing Freud, combining intellect with hesitancy and capturing that blend of single-mindedness, ruthlessness and detachment common to genius.
Lydia Wilson gives a strong performance as Jessica, a troubled young woman who stalks the dying psychoanalyst, while Adrian Schiller is hilarious as the zany artist Salvador Dali.
David Horovitch provides a sober counterbalance as Freud’s Jewish doctor, Yahuda.
Schiller is an irrepressible whirlwind of lunacy, transforming Freud’s peaceful studio into a nightmarish Dali painting – with an imploding clock and walls, lobster telephone and phalluses and snails galore.
Though farcical, Johnson’s play also explores deeper issues, like identity, creativity and scientific ethics. Lez Brotherston’s set is spectacular.
My only quibble is that if it’s set in 1938 – why the air raid sirens? – as war was not declared until 1939 – but perhaps I am being too literal!
Hysteria runs at Hampstead Theatre until October 12. Details: 020 7722 9301 or www.hampsteadtheatre.com