It has been 125 years since Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud developed the practice of psychoanalysis. In the ensuing century, his book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, became the touchstone for psychology and psychiatry worldwide, assisting millions of people towards better mental health. As we emerge from a pandemic which has taken its toll on the entire population, it is timely that Slip Theatre has devised an accessible and illuminating piece of theatre to explore Freud’s theories and their place in the modern world.
We are introduced to this abstruse and theoretical world through the vehicle of a Greek chorus (Liv Taylor-Goy, Eden Vaughan, Lucy Tait). Clad in white lab coats, they outline the basics of Freudian theory with clarity and humour, Taylor- Goy and Vaughan bickering whilst Tait acted as the voice of reason. As an illustrative device demonstrating the characteristics of Id, Ego and Superego this worked well, softening the exposition heavy opening well and allowed the audience to relax into the source material with ease.
Our guides introduce us to a dysfunctional family unit; worried mother, split daughter and recalcitrant son, living out a classical Freudian nightmare dynamic following the unresolved and unexplained disappearance of their father from the household. The issues each are facing are examined in turn through the prism of their dreamscapes, tying in the themes that Freud explores as each character embodies one of the three Freudian hallmarks. So the boy Id (Estella Christie & Emma Wilcox) is a torrent of psychosexual rage acting out his gunfighting fantasies with his absent father in his dreams, whilst sublimating his anger in reality into masturbation and killing his pet rabbit, this kid has issues! The daughter Ego (Tateyana Arutura & Rachel Cannon) is repressed, torn and harbouring a dark secret; it was the physical abuse she endured from her father that led to the family break up. Finally, the mother is Superego (Meg Ferguson & Sarah Lynn), in denial of the issues they are all facing; she is guilty at both the breakdown of her family and her inability to solve the problems they face.
Strong performances throughout are supplemented by excellent choreography which moves the ensemble by turns into soldiers, rabbits and ballerinas, creating a whirling surrealist dreamscape. The entire company showed ingenuity and creativity in bringing such a vivid tableau to life on a limited budget. Particular credit should be given to Annie King-Ferguson employing expressive line drawings and silhouette projections during the dream sequences to startling effect. The moving set, consisting of four painted screens on castors surrounding a raised dais, worked well as both a gateway into the dream world and a backdrop to the real world drama, whilst the costumes and lighting contrasted the dream world of bright colour and vivacity with monochrome reality.
From a dramatic perspective, a stronger resolution to the storyline would have been preferable and at times I felt the audience needed to be trusted more to understand the exposition of the story, the signposting suffering from being more obvious than opaque. However, the structure of the writing was strong, with this piece being an excellent introduction to Psychology for a young audience, the Reithian values of Inform, Educate and Entertain all being present in abundance.
In 1971, Philip Larkin wrote these immortal lines in ‘This Be The Verse’. They sum up the plot of this energetic, engaging, entertaining and informative introduction to Freud far better than I ever could:
‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.’
Reviewer: Donnie Brasco
Reviewed: 25th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★