Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Marat Sade, Dec 18, 2002

What: Marat Sade by Peter Weiss, by Eclipse Theatre
Where: Theatreworks 14A Acland St., St. Kilda
When: December 18 to 21, 2002 at 7.30pm
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Marat/Sade, written by German playwright, Peter Weiss, is set in the bath hall of the French asylum of Charenton in 1808, sixteen years after the French Revolution. Director, Miranda Rose, bit off a fair chunk in attempting this play. The production cannot meet the quality of the script.

The full title of the play is "The persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade."

The incarcerated Marquis de Sade directs his own play about the death of Jean-Paul Marat, the French revolutionary murdered in 1793 in his bath by fellow revolutionary, Charlotte Corday.

The shocking murder is told in a play within a play, through the voices of the inmates of the asylum under de Sade's cool direction.

 Weiss's play is a political allegory using the French Revolution as a parallel for the modern world. The violence of the Revolution, the poverty of the masses and opulence of the aristocracy are reflected in the powerlessness of the inmates as they perform for the elite of French society in 1808.

As the time for the murder nears, the lunatics lose control and the audience, both on and off-stage, are threatened with violence.

This production appears to use the translation by Geoffrey Skelton with verse adaptation by Adrian Mitchell and music by Richard Peaslee.

Peter Brook originally directed this version in 1964 for the Royal Shakespeare Company. (RSC) It was the definitive stage form of Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty in both writing and performance.

There are several competent performances in Eclipse's production. As de Sade, Adrian D'Aprano has an imposing presence and an understanding of the character. As the somnambulist, Charlotte, Ben Sutton is compelling while James Adler holds our attention as Marat with his stillness.
Swapping the genders of characters is a comic choice that undermines the potency.

Overall, the show misses the poignancy and tragedy. It portrays the mentally ill with face pulling and twitching. There is no subtlety nor is there any sensitivity to the issues inherent in Weiss's complex play.

The songs are probably the most successful part of the show.

The audience should feel at risk emotionally and physically. The play should balance the sardonic with the socially significant, blend the poetic and the crass, the musical and the spoken. Eclipse fails to do this.

By Kate Herbert

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