IN the midst of a four-month national tour of black comedy It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To), actor Henri Szeps is learning his lines for his next play: Freud’s Last Session.
“I’m trying to ingest the spirit and nimble brain of Sigmund Freud while playing a true-blue, dinky-di, old-fashioned Australian of the narrowest kind,” Szeps told The AJN.
It’s My Party is currently being staged in Sydney after starting its tour in late February in Victoria. The comedy is coming to Melbourne in July for performances at the Athenaeum Theatre.
In It’s My Party, Szeps plays patriarch Ron Patterson, who has been told he is terminally ill and has three months to live. To mark his impending death, Ron calls his dysfunctional family together so they can be at his side when he passes away.
As the family – including Ron’s long-suffering wife, son and two daughters – assemble and try to reach closure, they come clean on past hurts.
Szeps, who was born in a refugee camp in Switzerland during World War II, first came to national attention in 1968 playing birthday boy Harold in the original Australian production of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play The Boys in the Band.
He has also appeared in Australian stage productions of Glengarry Glen Ross and Cabaret.
Szeps shot to national stardom in the ABC-TV series Mother and Son, which screened from 1984-94. He played dentist Robert Beare alongside stars Garry McDonald and Ruth Cracknell.
Szeps says It’s My Party illustrates the subtleties of human nature. “It shows the difference between paying lip service to morality and actually believing it and living it,” he explains. “It’s a brilliant, strange, macabre and very, very funny comedy about family and bridging the generation gap.”
The play was written by Elizabeth Coleman, who also penned the box-office smash Secret Bridesmaids’ Business.
“It’s My Party is as funny as anything I’ve ever been in, including Neil Simon’s plays,” says Szeps, who has appeared in productions of Simon’s The Sunshine Boys and The Good Doctor, as well as five David Williamson plays.
It’s My Party’s extensive tour will end in Townsville, Queensland, on June 22. Despite the punishing schedule, Szeps is preparing for Freud’s Last Session, with rehearsals beginning three weeks before It’s My Party closes.
The play, which opens at Sydney’s Theatre Royal on August 14, sees Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and C S Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, meet in London in 1939 just as World War II breaks out.
REPORT by Alexandra Roach
PHOTO of Henri Szeps in It’s My Party.