The real, the surreal, and the imagined, meet, mash and clash in Darlinghurst Theatre’s current production of Hysteria.
In London, in 1938, psychoanalyst Dr Sigmund Freud and surrealist artist Salvador Dali – both masters of their mediums and crafts, both slaves to their minds and addictions – came face to face. Based on this outrageously combustible true-to-life meeting between the father of psychoanalysis, and the brainchild of surrealism, Hysteria brushes its abstract theatrical strokes over landscapes of the human mind in order to greater examine the landscapes of human relationships. All the while, this production boldly paints a portrait of hilarity, depravity, absurdity and sincerity in an ultimate search to present for us ‘the essence of The Real’.
I may or not have sat down with actor Jo Turner who is playing Dr Sigmund Freud in Hysteria. We may or may not have psychoanalysed him:
Jo, with the following questions, I want you to imagine the scenes in your mind as best you can, and describe for me the first thing that you visualise in each instance. Try not to ruminate on the questions too excessively before responding.
- You are not alone. You are walking onto the stage. Who are you walking with?
The shadows of the past.
- You are treading the boards now, Jo. You see an animal on stage. What kind of animal is it?
- What kind of interaction takes place on stage between you and your animal, Jo?
It scampers around the stage and I try to stamp on it, but it keeps getting away. It finally disappears through a hole in the bookshelf.
- Focusing deeper on the stage before you now, Jo – Before you is a set – a house – your house – your dream house. Describe its size.
It’s quite small, clean and angular.
- Does this set of your dream house have a fence surrounding it?
Oh yes. Quite a large stone wall.
- You enter the set of your dream house now, Jo. You walk to the dining area, and you see the dining room table. Describe for me what you see on and around the table, Jo.
Lace place mats. A candle holder with multiple candles. Stout oak chairs and table. A bowl of fruit. An ashtray. A cigar. A small pile of books. A large Persian rug. A wicker basket.
- You exit the set of your dream house through the back door. Lying in some stage grass is a prop cup. What material is this prop cup made of, Jo?
- What do you do with your prop cup, Jo? What do you do?
I leave it where it is. It’s probably there for a reason and I don’t want to disturb things or uncover secrets.
- Now – you walk to the edge of the stage where you find yourself standing looking out over a sea of people – it’s an audience. How do they look to you, Jo? How large is that sea of people?
They look slightly surprised. As if discovered in the middle of watching something.
It is a large but very compact sea.
- So tell me, Jo – how will you ‘cross the waters’ in order to connect to them?
In my mind…
And, we’re done.
Read into this what you will.
We may or may not have just psychoanalysed actor, Jo Turner. In the blurring of the lines between the real, the surreal, and the imagined, this may or may not have just been a relational psychology test. The answers given to these questions may or may not have just shown us relevance to the values and ideals that one holds within their personal and professional lives. Interpret as you will.
This possible analysis may or not be as follows:
Q1. The person walked with on stage may or may not be representative of the most important in one’s (performative) life.
Q2. The size of the animal may or may not be representative of the perception of the size of one’s (theatrical) problems.
Q3. The severity of the interaction performed with the animal may or may not be representative of how one deals with (their artistic) problems. (passive/aggressive)
Q4. The size of the imagined dream house may or may not represent the size of one’s ambition to resolve such (artistic) problems.
Q5. No fence around one’s dream house could be indicative of an open personality (towards one’s creativity) – where people are welcome at all times. The presence of a fence at the dream house could indicate a more closed personality – where one prefers people not to drop by (and interrupt) unannounced.
Q6. If food, or people, or flowers, or trimmings etc., were not included in the description of the dining room table, then one might generally be considered unhappy (with their creative output).
Q7. The durability of the material of the prop cup could represent the perceived durability of one’s relationship with the person/s named in Q1.
(For example: styrafoam, plastic, and paper are all disposable – styrofoam, paper and glass are not durable; and metal and plastic are durable.)
Q8. One’s disposition towards the prop cup might be representative of one’s attitude towards the person/s in Q1.
Q9. The size of the body of water…um…is…um…can be…um…representative…um… supposedly…maybe!…of the size of one’s…(performative) desires.
Thank you for your time, Jo- er, Sigmund- er, Jo…!
Peter Maple – Theatre Now and Talking Arts
Original publish date, April 14, 2017.