War of Words: Freud and CS Lewis



DIRECTOR: Alan Swerdlow

CAST: Graham Hopkins (Sigmund Freud), Antony Coleman (CS Lewis)

VENUE: Sandton”s Auto and General Theatre on the Square

DATES: Until September 14

Graham Hopkins as Sigmund Freud and Antony Coleman as CS Lewis. Pictures: Philip Kuhn


Take two great minds with opposing points of view, make the subject religion and let them go at it.

But load up some extra tension. Make it a looming World War (2), as well as one of the protagonists suffering a debilitating disease which will kill him sooner than later. And he knows that. It becomes a war in oneself  and a war of words set against the backdrop (and constantly brought into the room) of  war on the horison.

That’s exactly what this intriguing play juggles as these two great actors slip into their respective personas with great ease while tackling some of life’s most vexing issues. If this doesn’t pull you in, it’s perhaps not your play but think about two adults having a discussion with opposing points of view without coming to blows. It doesn’t happen that often anymore – or not so one can witness. And perhaps not in real life?


Conversational classic with Antony Coleman and Graham Hopkins










It’s huge fun. With Hopkins and Coleman really getting stuck into the roles, it makes for mesmerising viewing.

How can you not get into the Germanic, almost austere world in which Hopkins has cloaked his Freud. He completely sucks you into his character, an atheist at the end of his life who seems to be battling with life’s issues that might not be as crystal clear as he always thought they were.

Coleman’s CS Lewis is a more affable chap, recently converted from a similar position his adversary is defending, yet not at all thrown out because of their wildly differing points of view. The only time he is caught off balance is when the war-time sirens go off and having confessed to participating in World War 1, it seems like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Both are battling their own demons.

As the distractions dissipate, the two men continue their conversation about religion, mainly, as they argue their different stances, both with superior minds which they apply to showcase their opinions. It’s not as if we can’t all participate while watching. None of what they’re talking about is new. It’s just fascinating to see these two giants of old, fight to the end, to imagine what could have happened in that room if indeed they  had this particular discussion.

It’s a good piece of writing. American playwright Mark St Germain is quick with his wit and wisdom and keeps the flow of the ideas fast while giving time to digest. And with this premise, director Swerdlow could have over-exerted his actors to keep them from turning into talking heads. Wisely he didn’t and with actors of this stature, that was the right choice. They have a good text to work with and ideas that are both challenging and engaging, and the actors have a great time sparring with each other.

It’s gloves off and may the best man win. But this is a civilised clash of great minds happy to have some fun while running through their own beliefs and testing them against the best.