by Nicholas Wright.
Almeida Theatre To 5 December 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm & 18, 25 Nov 2.30pm.
Audio-described 28 Nov 3pm (+Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 25 Nov 1.30pm, 1 Dec.
Post-show discussion 23 Nov.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7359 4404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 October.
Strongly written an acted; a play well worth another look.
By 1934, when she was established in London and Nicholas Wright’s play is set, Melanie Klein was a noted psychoanalyst, doing for infants what Freud had for childhood experiences. Her two sons lived in Austria; the death of one becomes a backdrop to the play. Her daughter, Melitta is in London. And the expert on infancy cannot get on with her own child.
After the to-and-fro of verbal conflict Klein ends admitting a European devotee, Paula, as a patient, even conducting an initial session in her living, rather than consulting, room. It saves a scene change, and makes the point that Klein is easier with this daughter-substitute she can relate to on a professional level.
It could be enjoyable finding the psychological points in the play’s gradually unfolding action. Melanie locks her whisky away, but when Melitta demands some, Paula – staying on to type the latest Klein manuscript – merely removes the drawer above and slips her hand down to fish out the bottle. What’s not Freudian?
But Wright’s play, intelligent, well-crafted, allowing complexity of character to emerge with the apparent contradictions people carry within themselves, is its own point of interest. Whatever the overall impact, its fascination lies in a myriad of moments that develop the individual characters.
Who are all finely played in Thea Sharrock’s production. Zoe Waites’ Melitta contrasts the others in lightness, and volatility, of manner – reflected in her lighter-coloured clothing, setting off the others’ tight, black garments. Nicola Walker’s Paula has a reserve that occasionally gives way, but her serious pursuit of analysis by Klein is never in doubt.
And Clare Higgins, as always, uses every movement, every intonation, hesitation and glance to build her character’s character. It’s thrilling to watch such apparently untheatrical detail make Klein evident in her open and hidden complexity.
If only the design had a matching subtlety. Designer Tim Hatley has created a finely-detailed room- then spoils it by painting the whole thing scarlet. A big, unrealistic statement in a play of detail where the movement of a single book is significant. Fortunately, the actors win the battle against their environment.
Mrs Klein: Clare Higgins.
Paula: Nicola Walker.
Melitta: Zoë Waites.
Director: Thea Sharrock.
Designer: Tim Hatley.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Fight director: Alison de Burgh.
Assistant director: Oliver Baird.