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Freud and Dora


Subramaniam V


Nadia Bte Ibrahim






The Esplanade Theatre Studio



Sexuality Is the Key to Hysteria

Sigmund Freud once said, "A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them. They are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world." Freud and Dora, directed by Subramaniam V, presented these "complexes" in an interesting and hilarious manner, unfolding the story of a teenage girl, Dora, who attempts to come to terms with the realities of life. Dora (Charlotte Chiew) suffers from a repressed sexual disorder, with symptoms like an incurable cough, bed-wetting and terrible headaches. Her concerned father (Mohan Sachdev) arranges for regular appointments with Professor Freud, (Andrew Mowatt) to cure Dora of her disorder, much to her unhappiness. Having established the foundation of the story, the journey begins with unexpected twists and turns at every point.

The stage was transformed into the Professor's room, with a high and very uncomfortable wooden chair where he would sit when figuring out his patient's problems and a sofa where Dora would pour out her grievances to him, at times unwillingly. The bright lights also symbolised scrutiny - in his room, nothing would remain hidden, a condition which obviously delighted the Professor, who is keen on knowing people's deepest and darkest secrets.

While watching the performance, it was difficult not to gasp in shock as the famous psychoanalyst uncovered the scandalous details of Dora's life. I almost felt like an old lady at a tea party, listening in on torrid gossip. For instance, Dora frequently dreamt that her house was on fire and her mother, much to her father's annoyance, insisted on saving the family's jewel case. Freud, in an arrogant manner, informed Dora that the dream meant that she was unhappy with her father for his failure to protect her "jewel case" - by which he meant something entirely different...

The actors, of course, played a major role in creating this unpredictable and amusing atmosphere. Mowatt played the part of Freud to perfection. Immaculately dressed, he carried himself well - he was clearly in control of the situation and was determined to make Dora accept herself as a young lady with sexual desires. He did this by constantly mocking Dora and forcing her to admit that she enjoyed her sexuality. His candid and witty comments were charming, but also brought out a slightly irritating side of him.

Though Mowatt's Freud was self-assured most of the time, the actor also portrayed his flaws: his lack of sensitivity toward Dora and, later, his inability to control his love for her. Uncertainty and apprehension crept into his voice whenever Dora came too near and it was this that touched the audience and gained their sympathy despite his often hurtful remarks.

Similarly, the audience's hearts went out to Dora as they realised the cause of her disorder in the later part of the play. It was no wonder that she suffered from neuroses. Her father was having an affair with a family friend, and the husband of that woman tried to take advantage of Dora whenever her father was away. Chiew played the role of Dora rather well, presenting a girl who was confused yet endearing. Her effective use of body language, such as the way her hand touched her throat when she was uncertain, along with the young-sounding voice she used, succeeded in portraying a teenage girl who refused to grow up.

Sachdev, as Dora's father, also did a commendable job. Though at times slightly stiff, he managed to present a picture of a troubled father whose daughter was constantly ill and whose married life had turned sour. The chemistry between Chiew and Sachdev was apparent, making the father-daughter pair seem lovable, despite their shortcomings.

The only quibble I had was that the ending did not turn out the way I had hoped. Freud and Dora, a duo who had been bickering from the very beginning, fell in love, only to be separated because Dora's father had ended his affair and no longer needed to send Dora to the Professor to get her out of the way so he could visit his mistress. But I suppose you can't have everything, and more importantly, Freud and Dora succeeded, like a suave and smooth-talking Casanova, in seducing its audience with wit and innuendo. And at the end of it all, like little schoolgirls, we were thoroughly charmed.

"Freud and Dora succeeded, like a suave and smooth-talking Casanova, in seducing its audience with wit and innuendo"

More Reviews by Nadia Bte Ibrahim

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.