Presented at the Malthouse Theatre by The Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious on Stage Company, the play, Hilda and Freud: Collected Words, is based on Hilda “HD” Dolittle’s Tribute to Freud — her memoir of analysis — as well as letter’s exchanged with her literary circle and some of her poetry.
An icon of the Imagist literary movement, H.D. (Ana Vicentini), began her analysis with Freud in Vienna in 1933, during the rise of Nazism. The analysis is portrayed as a stream of consciousness, a process through which she constructs a lattice of correlations, works out her war traumas and experiences cosmic and oceanic epiphanies that help her gain a sense of self-understanding.
It is a moving portrayal of an artist’s thought process — of translating her perception into untamed language. It appears that Freud is himself an artist, working to translate and find meaning.
This portrayal of ‘listening’ as an art form — as being something like improvisational jazz, even when not speaking — is a fascinating window into the process of psychoanalysis, as a two-way exchange.
The fact that Freud is played by a practicing Lacanian analyst, Dr Antonio Quinet, effectively gives the play a double-function as a public demonstration of analysis. During the panel discussion following the performance, Quinet described the play as an educational tool, and as something more than a therapeutic practice. I’m beginning to think of it as a creative art form — like art, or maybe more like poetry — but what is its medium, if listening incorporates all the senses?
It was an inspiring and challenging play, a welcome can of worms, which I intend to investigate further. I think I’ll start with bit more of H.D.’s poetry and see were that takes me.
Jacob Matthews is a rambler and gardener, currently completing studies in secondary art education