Theatre review: Mrs Klein

Posted on: 03 November 2009 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews Nicholas Wright’s play Mrs Klein at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.

The psychological power struggle between three strong women fuels the drama in Nicholas Wright’s play Mrs Klein, which has been revived in a new production directed by Thea Sharrock at the Almeida Theatre in Islington N1.

The place is London, the year 1934. Viennese born Melanie Klein is one of the most admired, yet controversial, psychoanalysts of her time, renowned for her unique insight into the secret world of childhood. But her analysis of her own children has damaged her relationship with them beyond repair and news of her son’s death in a climbing accident provokes a bitter confrontation with her daughter. The news also poses a mystery that even Mrs Klein, despite her genius for analysis, cannot solve. It is left to her new assistant, a young Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Berlin, to find a possible solution.

This witty and poignant look at mother-daughter relationships is a study of character rather than action, with the drama only really taking off in the second half when the play becomes more than just an over wordy, cerebral comedy but a work of considerable depth and power.

Of course what really brings this play alive are the superb performances by Clare Higgins as the controlled, yet wilful Mrs Klein, Zoe Waites as her impetuous, demonstrative daughter Melitta who used to be her patient but is now her rival, and Nichola Walker as the outsider of the trio who initially takes the job of proof-reader for Mrs Klein’s new book but quickly becomes a kind of moral adjudicator.

In all then a thought-provoking study of damaged human relationships.

By Laurence Green

Where: Almeida Theatre, Islington
When: plays until 5 December 2009
Box Office:  020 7359 4404

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