Home » Reviews » Drama » DNA – Alexandra David-Néel, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Theatre 1) – Review
DNA – Alexandra David-Néel, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

DNA – Alexandra David-Néel, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Theatre 1) – Review

Pros: A brave attempt at presenting the correlation between quantum physics and Buddhism.

Cons: Unengaging delivery

Pros: A brave attempt at presenting the correlation between quantum physics and Buddhism. Cons: Unengaging delivery With its 80-minute running time, DNA – Alexandra David-Néel is one of the longest shows at this year's Fringe festival, where most productions sit within the 60-minute mark. Whoever goes beyond that limit aims at allowing enough time for the narrative to build, but this can't be said for Mariane Zahar's work, where the dramatic development is muddled and hard to follow. The French woman Alexandra David-Néel – portrayed by Zahar herself – was the first woman of European origin to live in Tibet. This work comes…

Summary

Rating

Very poor

This performance fails to connect with its audience, presenting a topic that is quite hard to navigate.

User Rating: Be the first one !
With its 80-minute running time, DNA – Alexandra David-Néel is one of the longest shows at this year’s Fringe festival, where most productions sit within the 60-minute mark. Whoever goes beyond that limit aims at allowing enough time for the narrative to build, but this can’t be said for Mariane Zahar’s work, where the dramatic development is muddled and hard to follow.

The French woman Alexandra David-Néel – portrayed by Zahar herself – was the first woman of European origin to live in Tibet. This work comes from an adaptation of some of her books, written after years of Buddhist indoctrination. The action takes place in 1916, and we find her sitting in meditation in the Himalayan hermitage cavern in which she had already spent two and a half years. Enveloped in a dark blanket and motionless for over 20 minutes, she carries out her monologue whilst staring at the floor, with the lighting set on a loop that fades from purple to yellow, to blue and to purple again. When she finally stands up, in a plain white tunic, her movement remains scarce.

Weaving quantum physics with personal experiences and the doctrine of Tibetan Buddhism, she enunciates her visions on evolution and scientific progress, giving up a solid narrative structure in favour of philosophical digressions and speculation on the findings of Max Planck and Albert Einstein. An hour in, the auditorium is suddenly plunged into darkness and the audience starts applauding, before the lights go up again and the soliloquy continues for another 20 minutes.

It takes an exceptional performer to mould the spoken word in such a way that it can stand alone and captivate the audience without the support of movement, lighting or sound. Zahar’s strong French accent is the foremost obstacle to this achievement, together with her decision to deliver the lines without looking at her audience, whilst assuming an old-school melodramatic tone that cries for engagement. The result is a self-centred production, unaware of its recipients and weighed down by a stagnant delivery.

Written and Performed by: Mariane Zahar
Produced by: La Compagnie des Saïs
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run

About Marianna Meloni

Marianna Meloni
Marianna, being Italian, has an opinion on just about everything and believes that anything deserves an honest review. Her dream has always been to become an arts critic and, after collecting a few degrees, she realised that it was easier to start writing in a foreign language than finding a job in her home country. In the UK, she tried the route of grown-up employment but soon understood that the arts and live events are highly addictive.