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Alicia Clarke

Freud The Musical

16 March 2018 Suzanne Frost

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis who pretty much took his own obsessions and misogynistic hang-ups as universal truths, is a favourite of feminists to make fun off.

Freud The Musical, written, composed and performed by Natasha Sutton Williams, is a somewhat hysterical one-woman show that gleefully picks apart the bombastic Sigmund Freud, famous Austrian neurologist and founding father of psychoanalysis. Sutton Williams, cross dressed in a baggy suit and obligatory cigar in hand, plays Freud as a cocaine-fuelled power-hungry psychopath and also portrays all of his patients in an eye rolling, fearlessly over the top performance. Freud is crippled by debt and first and foremost obsessed with finding fame in whichever way possible. Listening is not his strength and so he much rather declares absurd theories and diagnoses, drowning out his patients’ voices.


Photo: Alicia Clarke

Dora, who identifies as lesbian, is quickly diagnosed with a suppressed sexual attraction towards her uncle. When she mentions that her uncle abused her as a child Freud declares that “love grows over time”. Little Hans, a boy sent by his father to cure a phobia of horses is quickly shoehorned into representing the Oedipus complex – he wants to kill his father and sleep with his mother - while Sutton happily swings a hand doll around singing the “My Whiddler” song.  Hans’ mother, who repeatedly tells him off for touching his “whiddler” in public, obviously suffers from – you guessed it – penis envy. The mysterious “Rat Man” Ernst, who quite obviously has OCD and horrific returning nightmares, is put through association games by Freud and then treated with cocaine, a marvellous drug that Freud believed could cure almost anything - including Morphine addiction. Sigmund doesn’t really know what his patients are thinking but is more than ready to claim his views as their thoughts. It seems that maybe Freud alone has the anal obsessions and unsavoury feelings for his mother described in his various books and academic papers. Each of his patients is treated to bizarre sexualised and even violent accounts of what lies behind their dreams and concerns. They may object but it doesn’t matter: the doctor knows best.


Photo: Alicia Clarke

While the show is supremely silly and absurdist, it is well researched: all the patients are real Freud cases and the great doctor did indeed use cocaine to inspire his imagination and prescribed it to his patients as well. The fact that he talked to a stuffed cat named Oedipussy, a rather sassy and sophisticated feline female alter ego, who pretty much feeds him most of his big theories, is probably more down to creative freedom. Music wise, Natasha Sutton Williams is accompanied by Phil Blandford at the piano, who remains heroically and stoically straight faced during the more hysterical scenes. She also creates looped soundscapes using some clever equipment to fill out the sound of her voice. Sutton Williams jumps easily between the the myriad characters, zig-zagging from tiny child, to coke-fiend, to awkward young general and she is so physically engaged, they can be read clearly. Her thick supposedly German accent can be grating but since we are obviously here to hatewatch Freud, that’s perfectly alright. The thirteen original songs are not exactly catchy but in their best moments show flashes of Kurt Weill and the Threepenny Opera.
 
Played in the tiny Pit Theatre of the Vaults, this show has a definitive fringe feel about it but it is damn entertaining and charmingly chaotic.
 
Freud The Musical is at Vaults Festival 14-18 March. Tickets are £11.50.
 

 
 
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