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22 November 2017 01:01 (South Africa)
South Africa

Theatre review: A work rich in words and religion, less on sex

  • Lesley Stones
    Lesley Stones
  • South Africa
Graham Hopkins and Antony Coleman in Freud’s Last Session.

If you are still trying to decide whether God exists or not, Freud’s Last Session won’t help to sway your opinion. But it will entertain you though. By LESLEY STONES.

Freud’s Last Session is rich with words, ideas and philosophies and acted by the ever-excellent Graham Hopkins and Antony Coleman.

It’s billed as a collision of minds in an imaginary meeting between Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis whose work was woven through with sexual analysis, and CS Lewis, the Christian author.

There’s a lot more focus on religion than sex, which is a disappointment to those of us more interested in sex than religion. Freud has come to dismiss God as a childish fantasy, while Lewis has had his own Damascus conversion and is now a firm believer.

It’s a play of words and ideas rather than action, such as Freud’s belief that the human brain cannot hold on to horror, and triggers random thoughts to disrupt the threads. There’s a little lightweight banter too, and some lovely lines – like the main problem with Christianity being the Christians – but overall this is an evening of serious theatrical endeavour.

Playwright Marc St Germain has set the imaginary meeting in 1939 in the UK, where Freud had fled as the Nazis invaded his native Austria. The premise of the play is that Freud has invited Lewis to his home for a debate after the author satirised Freud in one of his books.

Hopkins plays Freud as an 83-year-old dying of a painful cancer, and captures his impending finality with dignified resignation. Coleman is required to give the Lewis character an undercurrent of nerves and fallibility, and does so through his movements, speech and expressions. It’s classy acting by both men who match each other in stature and gravitas.

Director Alan Swerdlow maintains a measured pace through the cerebral debates, broken up by Freud’s bouts of coughing and the external threat of air raids.

The set by Denis Hutchinson shows us Freud’s study, economically hinting at its contents rather than lavishly recreating them. It features the essential furniture and inevitable psychiatrist’s couch, and a lovely old-fashioned radio that delivers announcements from the BBC as the World War ll escalates.

My erudite escort said he would have enjoyed an even more intellectual level of debate, although I found the level of verbal sparring and confessional encounters high-brow enough to demand constant attention. It’s extremely well written and researched by St Germain, and perfectly executed. DM

Freud’s Last Session runs at Sandton’s Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Gauteng until 16 September. Tickets from www.computicket.com or from the theatre, call 011 883 8606

  • Lesley Stones
    Lesley Stones
  • South Africa

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