Mark St Germain's play Freud's Last Session at the King's Head Theatre in Islington is a compact yet powerful play which imagines a clash of intellect and reasoning between two famous minds.
It's England on the day that World War II will be declared, and Freud (Julian Bird) has invited Oxford Professor CS Lewis (Séan Browne) to see him at his London home. The founder of psychoanalysis is in the later stages of painful mouth cancer, while Lewis is yet to become a famous writer.
Freud, an atheist, is fascinated with Lewis's sudden re-adoption of Christianity, having lost his faith as a teenager. With the threat of war looming, the two debate the existence of God, religion, sex and relationships.
St Germain's tight script allows the interrogation of both men's arguments, yet the conversations' seriousness also has flashes of wit and humour. It is not so much a case of one winning over the other but what they discover about themselves during the conversation.
Browne's Lewis is confident, respectful and interested, yet there is also a playfulness to him that brings light to the character. It contrasts with the weightier Freud, played superbly by Bird. His Freud is a sharp mind encased in a painfully crumbling body. He brings a grumpy impatience that is understandable in old age.
Performed on the small King's Head stage, complete with the famous consulting couch, Freud's Last Session is a compelling watch, and I'm giving it: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre
Written by Mark St Germain.
Directed by Peter Darney
Running time: 80 minutes without an interval.
Booking until 13 August; for more details and to book, head to the King's Head Theatre website.
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