Observations: Freud family sofa's takes a starring role in Theatre of Therapy

By Nancy Groves
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:09

Seventy years ago this week, Sigmund Freud committed "assisted suicide" at his Hampstead home and, later this autumn, the couch from his house will play a central role in a show at Chelsea Theatre.

Theatre of Therapy is the latest entertainment "event" from the acclaimed performer David Hoyle, best known to those outside the gay scene for his cameos in Nathan Barley and Velvet Goldmine. Directed by long-time collaborator, Nathan Evans, the show sees Hoyle exploring notions of ego, super-ego and id through savage self-reflection and recorded therapy sessions conducted with audience members on the Freud family sofa.

It sounds like the perfect vehicle for a man who views all artistic expression as "therapeutic and cathartic". How Chelsea came by the couch, however, is more convoluted. Friend of the theatre Helen Spackman, a performance artist and lecturer at London Metropolitan University, was given it by a student connected to the family of John Willett, a pre-eminent Brecht scholar, who, in turn, acquired the sofa directly from the Freud Museum.

"Owning something that Freud's bottom actually sat on, well, I couldn't resist," says Spackman, who is storing the rather battered couch in the hallway of her flat. "Here is this broken-down object that once belonged to this very great man. And if we follow that metaphor into the breakdown of the human condition, I think that's why David is so excited about using it."

Hoyle concurs: "The couch will be electrically charged with the vibration of Freud's voice. I plan to have a relationship with it." And what could be more appropriate? Hoyle has assumed numerous personas in his career, none more memorable than The Divine David, whom he dramatically killed off at Streatham Ice Arena in 2000. Freud would have a field day with this patient, surely. "I'm happy to say I'm multifaceted," admits Hoyle. "Some of my facets are blinding bright and others are coal-black. It all depends on where the light is."

'Theatre of Therapy' is at Chelsea Theatre as part of its Sacred season (21 October to 22 November) www.chelseatheatre.org

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