The two did meet in London during the Second World War having fled conflict in their respective homelands - Austria and Spain - and if the play focused entirely on their meeting and the clash of personality then it might work. Equally if the play focused entirely on the second plot line - the unexpected arrival of a young woman who is obsessed with a past case of Freud's - then it might work but the two combined just sit really awkwardly.
But crucially it is a dark and sobering subject matter that has a case of child sexual abuse at the centre whereas the meeting of Freud and Dali is played out as a farce. At the interval I wasn't the only one left wondering just exactly where playwright Terry Johnson was going with Hysteria.
The narrative does come neatly full circle but farce and paedophilia alongside each other? The play is not without merit, there are some great moments - humorous and harrowing. The performances are also outstanding; Antony Sher's effortless performance style is always a pleasure to watch and Lydia Wilson really cements herself as talent to watch and admire.
In its staging it pulls out a lot of unexpected stops when it segues into a Dali-inspired scene towards the end of the play, even if the nudity did feel a little gratuitous and unnecessary at that point.
This is definitely a case of the play not being quite the thing. Johnson could have made two very interesting but very different stories and in trying to tie them together has made something that is just awkward and odd. Not going to be a favourite play of the year.
Hysteria runs at the Hampstead Theatre until October 12.
Nice little direct connection, Adrian Schiller who plays Dali was in Richard II with Mr W.