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Christopher Felix Bezzina

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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. Amidst the script’s puns and the professional acting Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb efficaciously captures the gay multifaceted reality. The comical pre-objections on the production have added 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.

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 gays face, the amplified defence mechanisms, the conflicting attitudes of the conformists and liberals, and the diverse sexual behaviour by all characters. The audience can effortlessly associate them with their own private direct histories. However, amongst these themes, the recurring concealed dominator is the personal inner battle for self-actualization. Upon leaving the theatre two thoughts kept lurking in my head which had yet to be appreciated.

My first thought draws upon the characters of the drama. They succeed in exhibiting the complex emotive (and sexual) frustrations of life. While embodying the struggles from society, they are exposing an anthropological reality: an oscillation between being victims of violence, and at the same time agents of violence. Such an oscillation can 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, engage from these two roles. Is this not also a factual reflection of reality which Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb successfully seizes? Indeed, both straight and gay yield to such manipulations as they struggle for self-actualization. It is Cynthia who holds the interpretive key to the whole production. She declares in the self-reflexive rhetorical device 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 condition even messier. The dramatic performance starts with chaotic circumstances, however by the end of the drama the chaos worsens.

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 surely 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? Are all gays in our society clothed with a deconstructive personality as portrayed in the drama? Perhaps Jiena Nhobb Inti Thobb reveals the writer’s own understanding and perception of what the gay world is all about from a straight point of view.

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 thirsty for a healed and unitive love. In some ways, this is a phenomenon which renders gays equal to straight.

This article originally appeared first on the “Times of Malta“.

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