MARAT / SADE: Peter Weiss, English version Geoffrey Skelton, Verse Adaptation, Adrian Mitchell
RSC at RST
Runs: 2h 40, one interval, in rep till 5 November
Review: Rod Dungate, 22 10 2011
MARAT / SADE still lives and breathes with great power.
It’s an iconic play from the mid 1960s – ramshackle (seemingly), the epitome of alienation technique, a brash, bold foray into experimentation. Marat / Sade lives in our joint theatrical memory – even among those of us who have never seen it . . . we feel like we’ve seen it.
It is a product of its time; it explores notions of freedom and oppression, it sets liberty against the imprisonment of pursuit of an ideology. Its style owes much, not just to Brecht, but to the 60s sexual liberation, to drugs, to ‘happenings’. In its form it’s as iconoclastic as many of the events then happening around it.
But now? How about the play now? Two things immediately . . . it’s astounding how relevant the debates still are (and how little we seem really to have achieved) and we may clearly see and admire how cleverly this play is structured.
It’s tempting to describe this work, in which the insane act out a debate of huge intellectual proportions, as a series of magic boxes, nestling inside one another; but it is much more like a whole series of mirrors with images reflecting deeper and deeper into themselves releasing ideas and questions is a wild stream of consciousness. To discuss freedom, why not use those most tightly locked away? To discuss our social responsibilities why not use those we most despise? To discuss individuals’ possibilities why not use the man whose name has gone into our language as a sexual undesirable? The construction is mind-blowing.
Director Anthony Neilson has picked up bits and pieces of contemporary life, including electric wheelchairs and looted goods in cardboard boxes, to toss his debate into our laps – there is no comfortable escape for us. But his ensemble, and his discussion, holds together; long debates (for instance between de Sade and Marat) are given time to take and resonate.
Arsher Ali (JeanPaul Marat) quietly and authoritatively puts his views forward, while Jasper Britton pulls together many facets (some bizarre) into a coherent whole. Lisa Hammond (Herald) is a perfect bridge between us and the frightening Charenton world.
In our 21st Century, free-market, all-in-this-together (we are told) enlightened economy, Neilson’s use of mobile phones as the ultimate symbol of our own capitalist oppression is both apt and chillingly telling.
Coulmier: Christopher Ettridge
Coulmier’s Guest: Rebecca Brewer
Herald: Lisa Hammond
Kokol: Amanda Wilkin
Polpoch: Harry Myers
Cucurucu: Golda Rosheuvel
Rossignol: Maya Barcot
Jacques Roux: Nathaniel Martello-White
Charlotte Corday: Imogen Doel
JeanPaul Marat: Arsher Ali
Simonne Evrard: Theo Ogundipe
Marquis De Sade: Jasper Britton
Duperret: Lanre Malaolu
Mad Animal: Andrew Melville
Marat’s Mother: Liz Crowther
Voltaire: Kammy Darweish
Lavoisier: Nicholas Day
William, The Patient: Oliver Rix
Patients: Liz Crowther, Kammy Darweish
Directed by: Anthony Neilson
Designed by: Garance Marneur
Lighting Designed by: Chahine Yavroyan
Movement by: Hanna Morrissey
Music by: Khyam Allami
Sound Designed by: Spesh Maloney
Fights by: Dev McCurdy
Company Text and Voice Work by: Lyn Darnley and Cathleen McCarron
Assistant Director: Ben Brymnor
Music Director: Kevin Waterman
Additional Company Movement: Struan Leslie
Casting by: Hannah Miller