Hysterical! A Hilarious History of Hysteria

Rebecca Buckle
Theatre Royal Stratford East
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Rebecca Buckle as Hippocrates Credit: Screenshot
Rebecca Buckle as Edward Jordan Credit: Screenshot
Rebecca Buckle Credit: Screenshot
Rebecca Buckle and Sigmund Freud

Written and performed by Rebecca Buckle, Hysterical! Takes the form of a lecture that traces the history of the medical treatment of women from classical times to the present day, their medical problems so often labelled by male doctors as a form of hysteria (from hystera, the ancient Greek word for the womb). Not very promising as entertainment you might think, but you’d be wrong.

With her own script and directed by Mina Barber, Rebecca Buckle provides fascinating facts and a lot of fun as, with the help of some lively glove puppetry, she explores two and a half thousand years of misguided theories, introducing us to practitioners from Hippocrates to Freud. She intercuts this medical history with contemporary vignettes that bitingly satirise consultations between a patient like herself with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and GPs and specialists who know less about her condition than she does.

The changing angles of Ben Pugh’s videography continually refresh the image, but it is Buckle’s delivery that holds the attention. Hysterical! is a a delightful amusement that simultaneously serves as a serious investigation into what amounts to misogyny in gynaecological and psychological thinking. It would be a useful addition to any doctor's medical training but it is delivered with a light touch. It is a performance that earns a place as real theatre: watch it!

Hysterical! is accessible with BSL interpretation, captions and audio description.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton