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Featherstone-Whitty, M. (1988). ‘Mrs Klein’ (at the National Theatre). Brit. J. Psychother., 5(2):257-258.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(2):257-258

Theatre Review

‘Mrs Klein’ (at the National Theatre)

Review by:
Mark Featherstone-Whitty

The thought of seeing, let alone reviewing Mrs Klein (Cottlesloe, National Theatre) for this journal was daunting. With just my MEd in counselling, would I catch the general drift or be asking friends searching questions in the interval, while camouflaging my ignorance?

‘Have you seen the breast?’ was the first question I was asked while greeting my friends before the show. Indeed I had. And strangely comforting it was too. The detail from Lucien Freud's Girl with a White Dog of a precise, swollen breast, chosen as the pictorial image for the play's poster, was unambiguous - as I was praying the play was about to be.

The set was Melanie Klein's London consulting rooms: bookcases, arm-chair, sofa, drinks cabinet, desk and Persian carpets-in two words, cosy but professional. Against this back-drop a precise episode in Klein's life is brought to life: Paula Heimann establishing herself as devotee and analysand, while Melitta (Klein) Schmideberg attempts to acquaint her mother with the reason for Hans's (Melitta's brother) death and walks out of Klein's life for good.

As the play starts there is a peculiar dislocation. It is quite clear who is Mrs Klein and who is Paula; the one talks while the other listens - the general pattern of their relationship throughout the play (until the very, very end). Within moments Mrs Klein is crying. She holds out her hand to Paula. Paula takes it and she gradually stops crying and says, ‘I think that's it until next time’.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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