Review: Freud’s Last Session
Freud’s Last Session is set in the London residence of history’s most famous psychiatrist. The action takes place in autumn 1939, the very evening when Britain and France declared war on Germany. The dying 83 year old Freud is joined in his book-lined study by future famous author C.S. Lewis. The wireless reports of the Nazi offensive and the air raid sirensthat interrupt their conversation no doubt occurred but the meeting of these two men is straight from the imagination of playwright Mark St Germain.
Freud (Henri Szeps) awaiting death from a cancer that has eaten away a large part of his jawis often in agony but still not interested in making peace with a god he doesn’t believe in. Enter whip smart Oxford professor Lewis (Douglass Hansell) who experienced a conversion from atheism to Christianity in his thirties (he is now in his early forties).
The ailing Freud met with many admirers at 20 Maresfield Gardens including Noel Coward and die-hard decadent Salvador Dali but the fictional choice of Lewis, years before Narnia, seems mainly to serve St Germain’s intention to debate faith.
While Freud dealing with his cancer is more confronting than any ensuing discussion, I think it is the tone of the debate, the passion with which the men converse, the mutual respect they offer one another, despite the fact they vigorously disagree, that gets the audience feeling all warm and fuzzy. But I never thought I was really in the room with these men as St Germain’s writing never dips below the surface. He could have gone deeper, exploring their inner livesand not just their intellectual positions and I think the punters would have gone with him.
The drama is directed with an efficient hand by Adam Cook. I wasn’t aware until later that Szeps, at this performance, was having his lines fed to him by a hidden earpiece. I thought that practice died with George Bush’s presidency. Anyhow, I still thought his Freud an example of solid character acting with Hansell having the much tougher job in a fairly blandly written role. He more than held his own.
This is a handsome production of an intimate play staged in perhaps too big a theatre.
Theatre Royal. Season Now Finished.