Hysterical! The Hilarious History of Hystery at Theatre Royal Stratford East Online
One should probably be apprehensive when a show calls itself “hilarious” in its title and describes itself as a comedy-lecture in the blurb. Somebody is clearly protesting too much. That is not to say that Hysterical! A Hilarious History of Hysteria is entirely devoid of humour, but it is a far stretch to say that it is the focus of this piece – it is funny in the way that a university lecture can be amusing by merit of the lecturer being aware of some of the absurdities of history: amusing on occasion but, due to the serious implications of the material, it still remains a sobering experience. Adding cartoon sound effects and having an imaginary conversation with a puppet Sigmund Freud will not change that fact. No, truly hilarious this is not, but it is still a highly informative and engaging historical lecture.
Hysterical – written and performed by Rebecca Buckle – is essentially a 45-minute lecture on the history of hysteria, tracing the misdiagnosis of women’s medical problems from Ancient Greece to the present. Covering a lot of breadth, Buckle presents a range of fascinating facts from the grotesquely comical (such as the belief in the wandering womb) to the outright horrifying. In between, Buckle portrays brief black-and-white interludes, in which she satirises consultations between herself and various GPs, who disbelieve her perceptions and descriptions of her own symptoms.
Utilising all the advantages of a lockdown-induced home production, director Mina Barber and videographer Ben Pugh create a wonderfully poignant and flowing production that never ceases to capture the audience’s attention – particularly necessary given the severity of the subject matter. Hysterical! is also made accessible for diverse audiences through the creation of audio-described and BSL-interpreted variations of the show.
While nowhere near as hilarious as the title would suggest, Hysterical! A Hilarious History of Hysteria is nevertheless an entertaining and, above all, informative lecture. It covers a lot of ground and highlights many of the problems caused by a belief in hysteria in history, and its contemporary consequences. An important awareness-raising piece that can draw attention to a lot of the issues plaguing women today.
Hysterical! The Hilarious History of Hystery is at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 29th March 2021 For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.