(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/7.)
Terry Johnson's dazzlingly original play reminds us that farce can be a vehicle for ideas. Even if the piece has lost some of its shock value since it was first seen at the Royal Court in 1993, it still makes us laugh while raising serious questions about Freud's radical revision of his theories about the sources of hysteria.
The action is set in Freud's Hampstead study in 1938. Seizing on the fact that, in that year, Freud happened both to attend Ben Travers's 1926 play Rookery Nook and be visited by Salvador Dalí, Johnson creates a surreal farce exploring the analyst's suppressed anxieties and guilt-ridden memories. So a clothes-shedding girl who bangs on Freud's window and gets hidden in his closet turns out to be an avenging angel with a daunting accusation to make: that in 1897 Freud suppressed the truth about the childhood abuse of his Viennese patients and developed his theory of infantile sexuality through a mixture of career opportunism and familial concern.