The Jhiva of Nietzsche

Sat 4th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Daniel Malcolm

at 10:10 on 11th Aug 2012

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Nietzche's soul or Jhiva was a sprite-like creature dressed in gauze and netting, who pranced about the stage to the orders of a computerised air-stewardess voice-over.

This isn't as off the wall as it sounds: it was the production's way of symbolising the conflict in Nietzsche's life between passion and reason. Flights of the spirit, represented by whirling contortions of the Jhiva, were balanced by the cold analysis of the computer that flashed up on scream. The music inspired a Wagnerian frenzy of white gauze - while a red warning sign on the screen screamed "Emotional Overload". When not emotionally overloaded, Nietzsche's soul was in a small number of other reductive states - all accompanied by multimedia that was so vaguely generic it looked to have been plucked from the internet rather than tailored to the show. The pursuit of knowledge was symbolised by a montage of books - none of which are identified or gesture towards Nietzsche's interests. This is nothing to the sexual encounter - seen through the poorly-focused eyes of Nietzsche as he lurches through a primeval jungle after a beckoning temptress. When we catch up with her - she's lying submissively on her back - an expression that doesn't change when the thrusting camera movements start.

Appropriate as this impressionist rendering of the atavistic passions might be, it's also a disappointingly unspecific way of telling Nietzsche's tragic life. The show's clearly not aiming to be biographically informative in a straight-forward way, but it's a strange narration that is too obscure to be understood by anyone who doesn't already know a potted history. Oddly, the few details that were specific weren't accurate. Nietzsche didn't fall off a horse once, as is stated in the production. He broke down when he saw one flogged.

Much of the show did not even relate directly to Nietzsche; the audience was subjected to an extended introduction to the concept of karma, and a bizarre marriage of body to soul conducted by the airport announcer - even before Nietzsche's birth. And yet for all the flapping around in bed clothes, the production doesn't convincingly justify its Buddhist schema for an interpretation of Nietzsche's life. Particularly inscrutable was the role of action and reaction - supposedly a rationale for the pre-birth assemblage of Nietzsche's life.

The symbolic contrast between the passionate soul and computerised rationality was initially quite interesting - but after a while its insensitive development left me wanting to disconnect my own Jhiva. This is an tribute to nothing but Nietzsche's madness - it completely lacks his eloquence and charisma. Go to better empathise with the splitting headaches that Nietzsche suffered towards the end of his life, but don't if you share Nietzsche's love of theatre.

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Elizabeth O'Connor

at 17:33 on 11th Aug 2012

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'The Jhiva of Nietzsche' is an experimental, physical piece that attempts to establish a dialogue between Nietzsche's body and soul, based on the philosopher's own writings. It opens with Nietzsche's 'Jhiva', or soul, played by Korina Kontaxaki, hiding under a chaotic pile of rags, which slowly reveal the figure beneath them. Unfortunately for our own Jhivas, the entire production is just as big a confusing mess as the image it opens with.

'The Jhiva of Nietzsche' is, at heart, an attempt to theatrically represent Nietzsche's own conflict between emotion and reason. It's a great idea let down by a convoluted and weak fruition. It is bizarrely generic in its strangeness, and you get the feeling you've seen this play a hundred times before: the white soul throwing herself around the stage at climactic moments of emotion, the 'body' (a huge computer screen with the voice of a supermarket announcement system) presenting us with abstract, impressionistic images of beguiling and coquettish girls running through gardens, blurry childhood memories and grown men weeping in black-and-white.

The attempt to examine Nietzsche's life through a Buddhist order of things comes across as being neither enlightening (excuse the pun) nor appropriate. It doesn't reveal anything about the eponymous hero or his writings, discovers no links between the two belief systems, and you can sit through it without learning a single thing. You don't even need to know anything about Nietzsche to enjoy it in the first place - you wouldn't guess it was about him unless you knew he kind of liked music and fell off a horse once.

For the conceptual weaknesses in the play, the production is slick, clearly well-thought out, and inventive in its fusion of multimedia, dance sequences and music. Kontaxati is clearly a gifted performer. Her physicality and mannerisms as the soul are instantly likeable and capture a true, unaffected sense of innocence and purity. She conveys perfectly a sense that deep down, all humans can be defined by such a flighty, child-like quality.

For all Kontaxati's efforts, I would perhaps steer clear of 'The Jhiva of Nietzsche'. For a play centering on the philosopher and the Buddhist belief system it is curiously uninformative about either, delivering only patchy and over-simplified information. It is unfortunately typical of a Fringe play that doesn't quite live up to the great and refreshing idea it is based on.

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