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The Most Dangerous Toy
Published on Sunday, 12 August 2012
3

3 stars

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (venue website)
Theatre
3-4, 6-11, 13-18 Aug, 7:05pm-7:55pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

The Most Dangerous Toy is a play about Nietzsche, and his strange affair with Lou Salome, a young Russian woman. The title of the play refers to a quote from Nietzsche about men loving toys and loving danger – and so loving women best of all, as they are a combination of both. Nietzsche came out with a lot of this sort of stuff and this play posits that it was Salome that inspired some of Nietzsche’s work, particularly his ideas about women.

The set deign is striking and interesting. Much is made of a few simple things. The two players are well-suited to their roles, and their sombre costumes on the monochrome set do take us quickly into the dour and self-important world of 19th- century intellectuals.

But other than that, this story does little to make much of the extraordinary two people it is about. Apart from a few famous quotes dotted through this piece, Nietzsche could be any man bowled over by a feisty younger woman, and then growing grumpy when she won’t put out. And sadly, with Salome, I got very little sense of who she was at all.

And that’s a real shame, because Playades theatre company cites its specific aim as telling the stories of forgotten women from history. But here, Lou Salome was really only ever a muse to a great and misunderstood man. We learnt so much about what Nietzsche felt about her, but so little about her real feelings about anything that was going on. She claims to reject Nietzsche because a romance would interfere with her studies, but we never explore whether this is real or a bluff, while Nietzche gets ample stage time to wax about his own feelings. It seems that even in legacy, poor Lou Salome can’t escape him – even if she does flee from his arms and offers of marriage.

I’m disappointed, because this was such an interesting choice for a show. But really, all it amounts to is a bittersweet story of a love that couldn’t be, with little more to say than how sad a missed romance is.

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