I hadn't originally intended to see Mrs Klein at the Almeida but once a couple of my favourite actresses were cast in it I decided to give it a go. Actually I think the performances by Clare Higgins (Josie in Being Human) and Nicola Walker (Ruth in Spooks) were one of the main reasons I enjoyed tonight. Not that Nicholas Wright's play isn't good, but I might have found it a bit over-long with a less talented cast. Inspired by real events, Melanie Klein may not be as famous as Freud but she was considered to be almost as important a figure in the early development of psychoanalysis, especially with regard to children. The play takes place in 1934, soon after she's heard the news of her son's accidental death (or was it a suicide?) and decides she can't face going to the funeral. All three women in the play are analysts, Mrs Klein herself (Higgins,) her daughter Melitta (Zoe Waites) and Paula (Walker,) a recent Jewish refugee from Berlin, whom Melanie has hired to proof-read her latest book.
Klein and her daughter have always clashed both personally and professionally, and unsurprisingly things come to a head given the recent events. Despite the darkness of the themes, Thea Sharrock's production gets plenty of laughs, mainly from the fact that the three women can't help themselves from relentlessly analysing themselves and each other. Transference is the theme that most often recurs, with all three openly accepting as fact that Mrs Klein sees Paula as a substitute for her real daughter. Klein genuinely did use her own children as case studies so one question raised is to what extent she genuinely cared for them, and to what extent she damaged them.
In Tim Hatley's claustrophobic, blood-red set, the impression I got from Wright's play was that the three analysts have allowed their field of work to take over their lives to the point of obsession - so keen are they on pulling apart their every thought and dream that they're creating more and more neuroses for themselves as they go. A thought-provoking evening with some very strong performances that you can't help but like even if the characters are at times viciously flawed.
Mrs Klein by Nicholas Wright is booking until the 5th of December at the Almeida Theatre.