Freud's Last Session: King's Head Theatre *****

Freud's Last Session is at King's Head Theatre Islington

Freud's Last Session is at King's Head Theatre Islington - Credit: Alex Brenner

Director Peter Darney’s production at the King's Head is the European premier of Mark St Germain’s intense and challenging play. 

The action takes place in Freud’s Hampstead study - complete with that couch - where C S Lewis visits expecting to be upbraided for his satire of the great psychoanalyst.

The day of his visit is also the day Chamberlain declares war on Germany and Freud of course is a recent refugee from Vienna who abhors the Nazis. He is also suffering from soon to be terminal oral cancer that forces him to wear a prosthetic palate.

Freud's Last Session stars Julian Bird as the father of psychoanalysis and Sean Brown as C.S Lewis

Freud's Last Session stars Julian Bird as the father of psychoanalysis and Sean Brown as C.S Lewis - Credit: Alex Brenner

Their explosive meeting pits Freud's atheism against Lewis' recent conversion to Christianity. The Oxford Don has a fervent and unshakable belief in God and God’s goodness and holds the resurrection of Christ as the most important event in human history.

Freud is nevertheless intrigued by religion, asking: “Why has an intelligent man abandoned truth and embraced an insidious lie?”

Over 85 minutes, St Germain, Darney and a strong cast, deliver one of the great philosophical stage conversations. Freud and Lewis spar, test, chide and lay syllogistic traps for each other. They name drop on an industrial scale as they discuss morality, the nature of God, families, logic, war, sex, reality, myth and … farting!

Sean Brown as C.S Lewis in Freud's Last Session

Sean Brown as C.S Lewis in Freud's Last Session - Credit: Alex Brenner

Despite mutual respect and even affection there are moments of passion when they tear into each other; frailties and inconsistences are coldly exposed and condemned. Sean Brown offers an intellectual, thoughtful, even joyous Lewis whose terrible WWI experiences remain near the surface.

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Dapper and precise in brown tweeds, Julian Bird's Freud is urbane, shot through with cynicism and intellectual curiosity and terrified of his impending death. He was clearly exhausted at the end of this sensational and compelling work. Brown put a comforting hand on his shoulder and led him from the stage to rapturous applause from a deeply appreciative audience.

Dr Julian Bird as Freud in Freud's Last Session at the King's Head

Dr Julian Bird as Freud in Freud's Last Session at the King's Head - Credit: Alex Brenner

It’s only January, but this could be the play of 2022!

Until February 12.