STAG’s next production involves Freud, Dali and a young woman who spends a lot of time in her underwear…
Welcome to the world of Hysteria, by Tony Award-winning dramatist Terry Johnson, wherein we are asked to imagine the circumstances of a chance meeting in late 30’s London between one of the most controversial doctors of all time and one of the most recognizable surrealists….and did I mention the involvement of the barely clad young thing?
If there is any doubt left – Hysteria is a farce… however the very interesting thing about it is that it is as rich in fact as it is in fiction. From the very title, which is named after the Freudian psychological term, to Freud’s analysis and diagnosis of women of the ‘gentile classes’ which revealed they were harboring secrets of "sexual perversion in epidemic proportions." Wow, has anything changed…?
I spoke with director Alex Lance about all things show and some things…snail…
Hysteria by Terry Johnson is a farce that supplies the seemingly strange juxtaposition of Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali in London in the late 30’s. Many may not know it but there was, in fact, a meeting between these two at Freud’s house in Hampstead at around this time. Aside from these two 20th century icons, what is it that appeals to you about this play?
Aside from Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali? That’s half the play! 🙂
Putting Freud and Dali aside, a script which is brave enough to peer directly into the pain is certainly worth my time.
The play is certainly quirky and is almost a homage towards the classic British farce. Do you believe that this is a part of its general charm and what specifically drew you to it?
Definitely. Every time Dr Yahuda accidentally steps on a snail ("There goes another one!") I find myself cackling. One of the things that makes this play interesting is the way it balances drama and farce.
I guess what drew me to this play, apart from the characters, is the insanity that results from pulling the comedic and dramatic aspects of this ethereal world together. We as an audience are never more vulnerable than when we’re laughing. And I think this story has some beautifully timed punches. Combine that with a genuinely interesting plot set against a period in time that (I imagine) is better to be remembered, than lived.
When casting , were you looking for particular ‘types’? Was it difficult to cast this play? If so, why?
In my opinion, the theatre is an excellent place to get away from type-casting, more adventurous choices are permitted, to the benefit of the audience.
Farce, as comedy and drama, has its own requirements to make a successful transition from the page to the stage. What are some of the things you would be bringing to the rehearsal room to ensure that all requirements are met?
We just keep rehearsing again and again and keep trying different things until it feels right.
How was the decision made by STAG to choose this particular play as part of their 2011 season? (The show will be presented late May early June)
One of the Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group committee members brought it to their attention and a vote was taken.
The play is also The Victorian Drama League Awards Entry for the company. Can you talk about how this, if at all, influences how you approach the work of directing?
It has actually been quite a good motivator. Every element from set design, to accents and costume gets put under a bit of extra scrutiny. It doesn’t allow anyone (especially me) to be lazy, which will hopefully result in a better show.
What do you hope the audiences will take away from this show?
It’s solid entertainment, and quite a revealing view into the human psyche, but I hope audiences come away thinking about the poor garden snails who sacrifice their little slimy lives every night for this show.
Tell us a little about yourself in terms of your involvement with theatre over the years.
I’ve been an actor for about 12 years or so, only occasionally getting to direct. But they both bring me a lot of joy. The theatre is a safe place for me – a place to take chances and practice a difficult art form in front of a lot of people.
And finally, what is next for yourself?
I’ll just keep looking for another script. There’s so much writing out there that I don’t know about yet.
(Btw, I was only joking about the snails, we kill them humanely by trapping them in small salt cellars before each show — if you arrive at the theatre early you might be able to hear their little snaily screams!)