Based on the real-life event which took place 1 September 1939 Lewis and Freud come to a head in Freud’s study in Hampstead just weeks before Freud takes his own life. Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain at the King’s Head Theatre tackles household giants and mammoth issues of religion, sex, and death with unflinching ambition.
There are stunning performances from Julian Birdand Séan Browne. Bird plays a deeply unlikeable and miserable Freud and Browne a charming evangelical Lewis. This is all contained within a wonderfully playful set full of symbolism and atmosphere in the cramped theatre, with hangings of biblical pages and enlightenment-style lighting. Unfortunately,the playcomes up short as storytelling comes secondary to discourse.
With such grand predecessors, it was never going to be easy. Indeed,the play recognises its own limits when Freud and C. S. Lewis laugh at attempting to solve the world’s greatest mystery in one morning.It is an engaging exercise, to a point, having infamous and loved historical personalities both on stage referencing historical events and canonical literature such as World War, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and of course, the Bible. It’s satisfying when you get the reference. However, how well this serves to substitute a narrative is where the play fails to deliver. There is little driving it. If there is a strong chance of either giving in, there may have been more at stake.
There is a time pressure presented by the air sirens as London prepares for war and the impatient wait for saintly daughter Anna to relieve Freud of the suffering caused by the prostheses in his mouth. But this doesn’t really add much to the conversation unless perhaps you’re the devout believer concerned over Freud’s salvation as his timely death approaches between rasping fits and blood spittle.
As a former student of philosophy,I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting familiar theologian arguments and the sparring between two very different style of intellects. As a theatregoer, I hoped for more.
Review written by Tasnim Siddiqa Anim.
Freud’s Last Session is currently showing until Saturday 12th February 2022 at the King’s Head Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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