Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Wednesday, 1 October 1997
Hysteria by Damien Richardson, Oct 1, 1997
Hysteria by Damien
at La Mama until Oct
5, 1997 Reviewed
by Kate Herbert around Sept 26, 1997
No matter what name
we give them: neurosis, sadness, depression, melancholia, mania - nervous
disorders are not to be sneezed at, so why not make theatre about them?
Writer-performer, Damien Richardson has done just this with
his solo play, Hysteria, which takes a peculiar angle on the neurotic.
Richardson has used factual information and hilariously exaggerated
autobiographical details about his own family to create a quirky and engaging
A childhood friend, Fuzz, has grown up with a drug
dependence and psychotic symptoms, is a focal character. There are some funny
and disturbing moments as we witness Fuzz's disorientation and panic, his fear
Dad is a born-again Charismatic Christian wearing Jesus
sandals and spouting embarrassing Christian dogma on the perimeter of the
cricket field where his son plays. The need for a 'normal' parent is
The fact that hysteria was always associated with women is a
fascination to Richardson. He is bemused by the ancient Greeks' notion that the
uterus travelled through the body randomly creating hysterical responses in
women. He physically transforms himself into a women onstage – which is quite
One central character, Genevieve, is drawn from the case
studies of the late 19th century French analyst, Charcot, who researched and
treated women with hysterical or neurotic tendencies. Freud went to Paris early
in his career to study under Charcot at the hospital of Sal Petiere in Paris,
the same hospital in which Diana died; an odd congruence.
Genevieve was a depressive who, in her fits, took up
"passionate attitudes" which Richardson freezes into dramatic, almost
histrionic tableaux. It is ironic and tragic that real disorder can appear
Richardson is a performer who takes risks on stage. His
material deals with psychosis and taboos: sexual, religious and theatrical. He
works directly to the audience, sits down amongst us for a rest and a little
comfort during the show and comments on the audience reaction.
He improvises in an almost unnerving way, dropping in and
out of character and delving into the psyches of the nervously challenged. He
revitalises childhood anecdotes and family behavioural quirks, playing them as
comic stories but, in fact, highlighting them with a parallel analysis of
This is a funny and cleverly written show with some
challenging moments about our delicate psyches.