Lou Salome must be regarded as one of the most interesting women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Certainly, if this reviewer were to indulge in a dinner-party fantasy, she would be well up the list of guests. Frederich Nietzsche? Not so sure, although at one time, these two were very close.
Salome’s list of friends and admirers reads like a ‘who’s who’ of turn-of-the-century intellectual Europe. Friend of Nietzsche, student of Freud, lover of Reiner Maria Rilke, Salome’s life is itself a subject worthy of study.
‘The Most Dangerous Toy’ was how Nietzsche described women, and the ambivalence, as well as the chauvinism of that phrase occupies much of the action of this play devised by Playades.
It’s certainly a brave attempt to get to grips with both the philosophy of Nietzsche and his relationship with Salome. As in life, both prove slippery customers.
Nietzsche was 37 when he met Salome, already retired from university teaching and perhaps beginning the descent into nervous collapse that marred the last decade of his life. Salome was 21 when she met the philosopher through mutual friend Paul Ree, and the ‘intellectual commune’ the three inhabited becomes a central focus of the play.
Maria Alexe as Lou Salome inhabits her character with conviction, allowing the contradictions of Salome to emerge gradually. Jamie Laird has a tougher time with Nietzsche, bouncing between bouts of delusion and pompous priggishness. The script (with several sizeable contributions from one F. Nietzsche) doesn’t give them much slack with which to really play, and that’s a pity, as in other roles, both might well shine brighter.
The Most Dangerous Toy is undoubtedly a very brave attempt to bring two powerful personalities to the stage. That it doesn’t fully succeed does not diminish one’s admiration for Playades in tackling such challenging and thought-provoking material.
Times: August 3-18, 19.05
Tickets: £8 (£5)