Images traditionally conjured up of Marat/Sade (or to give it its full title: 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) may well be those of blood, gore, violence, and anguish. In this production, these key elements are very severely lacking.
As the 25-word title suggests, the piece is a play-within-a-play. The play centres on Jean-Paul Marat’s efforts in the French Revolution and his eventual assassination by Charlotte Cordray. The ‘cast’ are asylum inmates, directed by the Marquis de Sade who also steps into the play to philosophically converse with Marat.
Sadly, the plot is just about all you will get from watching the play, as very little else was done with it. Whilst it may be a hard text and context to deviate from, the macabre and gory elements should not be shied away from. Is some red lighting and fake blood too much to ask for? Some good characterisation was also seriously lacking. Dmitri Cramer’s Sade, for example, showed few glimmers of the cruelty and sadism that Sade was known for. The play’s epic style also became very draining.
Finally, the production did nothing to attempt to make the audience feel involved with and diminish its distance from the historical subject matter.
If you are majorly interested in the French Revolution, you may well get a brief history lesson here. If not, don’t bother.