British dramatist Terry Johnson’s award-winning comedy play Hysteria has been revived by touring company London Classic Theatre and will be heading to St Albans this Valentine's Day.
The play fictionalises a real-life 1938 meeting between Salvador Dalí and Sigmund Freud a year before the latter's death. Freud had fled Nazi-occupied Austria and settled in leafy Swiss Cottage, where he intended to spend his last days in peace. However, Dali pays a visit and discovers a naked woman in the closet, which throws everything into disarray.
The show, which is named after the Freudian psychological term "hysteria", stars Summer Strallen, most known for appearing in Hollyoaks and Land Girls, as well as West End appearances in Love Never Dies, Top Hat and The Drowsy Chaperone.
The 31-year-old plays a character called Jessica, who tracks down the elusive Freud and begs him to unravel and unpick the labyrinth of her mind.
Summer explains her pre-show ritual to help her embody such a complex character and reveals why she spent eight months kissing Ewan McGregor…
Where do you start when first approaching a new role?
Well, that depends on the role. I try to read the play as many times as possible before rehearsals start and learn as much as I can, but I come from a movement background so find it easier to learn lines when I am up on my feet in the rehearsal space. Once I have a “mind map” of where I am on the stage while I’m saying something, it really helps solidify the words in my brain.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I suffer with terrible nerves at the beginning of a run but, after a while, that subsides and I can enjoy it more. To help at the start of a run I do EFT, which is Emotional Freedom Training. It helps me get rid of any nerves or negative thoughts that might fly around my head. The worst critics I’ve ever come across have been my own thoughts so I have to keep them in check. I also regularly meditate, say prayers, make wishes and do spells - whatever I feel may help me quiet down the voices in my head. Most people have them, I’m just willing to admit it!
What do you have in your dressing room?
If I can, I usually have my two dogs, Bam Bam and Pebbles, with me but if the theatre doesn’t allow them in, I will always try to have my Neal’s Yard Essential oils diffuser with a collection of oils next to it. Also, my Dr Nelson’s steamer in case my voice is tired. I’ll also have a towel, flannel, tissues and any make-up I might need. And a mug.
What’s the first thing you do when you get offstage at the end of a show?
Take my hair out if it is up, if not, probably just wash my face and get ready to go home.
What are your memories of the very first time you stepped in a stage?
I don’t really have a memory of first stepping on a stage because I was so young when I started performing and before I could really take stock, it had already just become second nature to be on one. I’m sure there is some footage of it floating around somewhere.
What have been your career highlights?
Career highlight for sure is getting to kiss Ewan McGregor for eight months when I was his dance partner in The Donmar production of Guys and Dolls. I’m sure me kissing him is top of his list too!
What advice would you give any young women starting out in this very overcrowded profession today?
Listen to your positive self, whether that be in meditation, exercise, prayer, cycling whatever way you find it easy to connect to and hear your voice within. In this increasingly fast-paced world, take the time to just be in silence with yourself so you can really hear your true heart’s desire.
Hysteria, The Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans, AL1 3LD, Tuesday, February 14, 7.30pm and Wednesday, February 15, 2.30pm, details: 01727 844488, alban-arena.co.uk