Review – Mrs Klein, Almeida Theatre

Sunday 1 November 2009

MrsKleinWebDear Andrew,

Where are you? You don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t Twitter, have you turned into Stephen Fry? And you keep sending me off to see things on my own, it’s all rather disquieting.

I heard rumours you were spotted in Coventry earlier this week. I can quite categorically state it wasn’t me who sent you there.

By the time you receive this letter the run of Mrs Klein will probably have ended long ago and we’ll be DBEs.

It’s all beginning to look rather peculiar. The last time you sent me off to the Almeida Theatre it was Duet for One, a play set around a series of therapy sessions.

Are you trying to tell me something?

But I’m turning into you and digressing. Nicholas Wright‘s play is about the renowned Austrian born Freudian psychoanalyst Melanie Klein who was influential in innovating techniques in contemporary psychoanalysis and child psychology. Unfortunately for her family, she brings her work home.

Klein (Clare Higgins) is trying to come to terms with the recent death of her son as she prepares her new book aided by an assistant Paula (Nicola Walker) and is confronted by her daughter, also a well-known psychoanalyst, Melitta (Zoe Waites). All three players are excellent, Higgins wonderfully overbearing and Walker, an actress unfamiliar to me, portrays subtle manipulation quite superbly.

To say relations between mother and daughter are strained is an understatement. You’d be less likely to see these two getting on than Tony Blair shopping in Tesco.

Higgins’ Klein even occasionally reminded me Patricia Routledge‘s Victoria Wood As Seen on TV character Kitty. Praise really doesn’t get much higher than that does it?

I saw the original 1988 National Theatre production with Gillian Barge in the title role, Zoe Wannamaker and Francesca Annis and loved it then, and was prepared for it to be a little too talky, which it is, but I found a lot of it hilarious. Unfortunately the rest of the audience didn’t seem to find it quite as funny as me. They must have wondered who the mad man was in a cheap seat at the back, peering between two pillars and cackling with laughter at some of the dreadful revelations and psycho-babble. A suitable case for treatment probably. I’m convinced it was meant to be funny.

You’d have been nicely assured that even in 1934 people who are preparing to go away mutter, “Ticket, passport, money, glasses”, though of course you would add hat boxes. And I was thrilled with Mrs Klein’s filing cabinet with a special drawer reserved for the ego. It’s definitely solved the quandary I had over the Whingers’ Christmas presents to ourselves.

The satisfyingly realistic set (Tim Hatley) was not dissimilar to the one in Duet for One, in fact my companion, Stephen, whispered “déjà vu” to me as the curtain rose. Yes, a curtain at the Almeida! And I’m sure its blood-red colour was foetally symbolic.

And unlike my last theatre visit without you, this was a thoroughly polished piece and nobody fell off the stage. Sadly, there were no Freudian slips.

Anyway despite the odd longueur I was thoroughly entertained by Thea Sharrock‘s absorbing production, and I’m expecting you to send me off to any similarly themed productions in future should there happen to be revivals of Hysteria, Blue/Orange, Marat/Sade or the like.

But don’t expect any more letters, it may be a while before I go postal again.

Best

Phil

Footnote:

Psychology is a complex subject, but that’s just a very convoluted link to show you this clip of what happens when someone’s relationship is worse than Mrs K and her daughters…

7 Responses to “Review – Mrs Klein, Almeida Theatre”

  1. M. Hucknall Says:

    Are you certain that the red of the curtain was foetal and not menstrual?

    I think your analysis says more about you than about the curtain which – when all is said and done – was simply red.

  2. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    No the curtain was black the set was red. Another Freudian slip.

  3. Simone Says:

    Something to look forward to when I see this on the 9th then!

  4. misssfitt Says:

    amazing. this was my tweet from last week….@misssfitt “mrs klein” at the almeida last night. motherlicking good. But Claire Higgins may be one doubletake away from Pat Routledge’s “Kitty”

  5. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    To clarify, the set, Mrs Klein’s sitting room is panelled, bookcases on the right, windows on the left. Blood-red. A womb with a view.

  6. Ian Shuttleworth Says:

    At this point it seems appropriate to quote Freud: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

  7. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    Unless you’re Monica Lewinsky of course…

    Now Ian, surely you read something into the poppy seed cake?


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