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Hysteria (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hysteria: Or Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis
Hysteria cover.jpg
Written byTerry Johnson
Date premiered1 August 1993
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SubjectTwo of the world's greatest and most eccentric minds collide when Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dalí meet

Hysteria: Or Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis is a two-hour comedy play, by British dramatist Terry Johnson, fictionalising a real-life 1938 meeting between Salvador Dalí and Sigmund Freud a year before the latter's death. It is named after the Freudian psychological term "hysteria".

Freud and Dali meet for tea at Freud's house in Hampstead one summer's afternoon in 1938. The play combines that meeting with the arrival of the mysterious Jessica, who brings serious charges against Freud relating to his treatment of her mother and his theory of presexual shock. In the last months of his illness, the exhausted Freud, trying to put his affairs in order, soon finds himself up to his neck explaining both his life's work and the female undergarments in his garden.[1]

Performance history

The play's London premiere, on 1 August 1993 at the Royal Court Theatre,[2] was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, with Henry Goodman as Freud, Tim Potter as Dali, Phoebe Nicholls as Jessica and David de Keyser as Yahuda.[3] Beryl Bainbridge wrote in her 2005 book Front Row: Evenings at the Theatre: "there's an awful lot going on in this stunning play, and the actors - Henry Goodman, Phoebe Nicholls, David de Keyser and Tim Potter - all give massively intelligent performances".[4]

This production was revived in 1995, as part of the 'Royal Court Classics' season at the Duke of York's Theatre, with Aisling O'Sullivan as Jessica and Fred Pearson as Yahuda.[5][6] The Sunday Times said of the production: "This is an utterly hilarious and brilliant show and I do mean brilliant. It sparkles, it shines, and it lights up the mind".[7]

In a 2007 production at the Birmingham Rep, Sean Foley appeared as Freud, Sam Swainsbury as Dalí, Ruth Miller as Jessica, and John Burgess as Yahuda.[8]

In the 2012 production at the Theatre Royal, Bath (directed by the author), Antony Sher appeared as Freud, Will Keen as Dalí, Indira Varma as Jessica, and David Horovitch as Yahuda.[citation needed]

Sher and Horovitch revived their roles from 5 September to 12 October 2013 at the Hampstead Theatre, with Adrian Schiller as Dalí and Lydia Wilson as Jessica.[9] Charles Spencer, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said: "Twenty years on it strikes me as a modern classic... Johnson directs his own wildly imaginative but also scrupulously researched play with panache, achieving a farcical comic momentum that somehow finds space for moments of both deep emotion and intellectual rigour...the cast is outstanding."[10]


  1. ^ Vincent Canby (19 February 1996). "LONDON THEATER;A Farcical Freud Meets Disciple Dali - New York Times". Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Hysteria at The Royal Court Theatre". 30 November 1993. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  3. ^ Johnson, Terry (24 October 2013). Hysteria - Terry Johnson - Google Books. ISBN 9781472557544. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  4. ^ Bainbridge, Beryl (7 November 2006). Front Row: Evenings at The Theatre - Beryl Bainbridge - Google Books. ISBN 9780826482785. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  5. ^ Roberts, Philip (25 November 1999). The Royal Court Theatre and the Modern Stage - Philip Roberts - Google Books. ISBN 9780521479622. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Aisling O'Sullivan | National Theatre | South Bank, London". National Theatre. Archived from the original on 4 May 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  7. ^ Johnson, Terry (24 October 2013). Hysteria - Terry Johnson - Google Books. ISBN 9781472557544. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  8. ^ Ben Macnair (27 April 2007). "Hysteria at the Birmingham Rep". BBC Birmingham. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  9. ^ Paisley, Simon (15 September 2013). "Hysteria". Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  10. ^ "Hysteria, Hampstead Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2014.

Further reading

  • Johnson, Terry (1993). Hysteria: Fragments of an Analysis of an Obsessional Neurosis. Royal Court writers series. London: Methuen Drama in association with Royal Court Theatre. ISBN 0-413-68210-2.

This page was last edited on 18 April 2022, at 01:05
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