06 March 2014

Review: Jiena Nhobb. Inti Thobb. (Times of Malta, 2014)

Straight gay ponderings

By Christopher Bezzina

What makes a theatre production a successful one? My perspective is that it all depends on how much the production reflects what lies beyond the stage.

Amid the script’s puns and the professional acting, Jiena Nħobb Inti Tħobb efficaciously captures the gay multifaceted reality. The comical pre-objections on the production have aided to draw an intensified backing, so I convey my thanks to those involved in the dissent for making this production an even more popular one.

Jiena Nħobb Inti Tħobb reveals the writer’s perception of what the gay world is all about from a straight point of view. Photo: Mario Mintoff/PhotoCity
Each performance at Manoel Theatre was packed, and I am confident that all attendees could recognise the manifested themes of the production: the struggles of coming out, the oppressions faced by gays, the amplified defense mechanisms, the conflicting attitudes of the conformists and liberals, and the diverse sexual behavior by all characters. The audience could effortlessly associate them with their own private direct histories. However, amongst these themes the recurring concealed dominator was the personal inner battle for self-actualization. Upon leaving the theater two thoughts kept lurking in my head which had yet to be appreciated.

My first thought was drawn towards the characters of the drama. They succeeded in exhibiting the complex emotive (and sexual) frustrations of life. While embodying the struggles imposed from society, they have also exposed an anthropological reality: an oscillation between being victims of violence, and at the same time agents of violence. Such an oscillation could be seen throughout the whole drama, like the courage but also foul greed of Pierre, the handsome and yet shallow destructive Devine, the strong but aggressive Cynthia and so on. Every single character cannot be said to be a victim or a perpetrator. All, with the exclusion of the children, engaged from these two roles. Is this not also a factual reflection of reality which Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb has successful seized? Indeed, both straight and gay yield to such manipulations as they struggle for self-actualisation. It was Cynthia who held the interpretive key of the whole production. She has declared in the self-reflexive rhetorical device of the script that those who view gays as elevated champions have an illusory perspective. What a subtle trope from the producer of this drama! We are invited to question our viewpoints concerning gays. Society has been violently messy with gay issues, but it is equally true that gays can render this inherited messy situation even messier. The dramatic performance has started with chaotic circumstances, however by the end of the drama the chaos worsened.

This leads to my second view. The production finishes with a tragedy. The witty and naive Greg dies because of a violent protest (and also because of a hot-tempered Pierre), and surly the arrest of Johnny and Ian isn’t the perfect serenity looked forward to. The act commences and finishes with so much chaos, that one is faced with a direct question: Where is this leading us? Riki Anne Wilchins, an LGBT activist states that “Deconstruction has proven a sharp weapon in the wars of thought, as it was meant to be. Yet it has also caused confusion.” We cannot escape this chaos, but are there other matters which we are failing to notice?  Has one observed that all the presented characters in the drama where faced with their own deconstructive personality? Perhaps Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb reveals the writer’s own understanding and perception of what the gay world is all about from a straight standpoint. 

The chosen title Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb is suitable for the production as it invites us to consider a fragmented notion of love. This is our reality for gays and straight alike. While making sense of our fragmented messy lives, we are thirst for a healed and unitive love.

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