arachnekallisti: (Default)
[personal profile] arachnekallisti
So...Marat/Sade was actually rather good. Well-acted, ingeniously-staged, and blisteringly topical, with visual references to the Arab Spring, the UK riots, the surveillance state and Abu Ghraib. As far as I could tell, the script was essentially unchanged, which meant that all the references to bankers, class warfare and ill-advised military adventurism were actually there in the 1960s version, merely updated with contemporary references (I have ordered a copy of the script off Amazon and found the 1967 version on YouTube - I intend to do a proper comparison later).

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 (just to show I do actually know the full title) is an incredibly self-aware, meta piece, a play within a play in which the audience on stage and the audience in the seats are both part of the spectacle. It's an extended dialogue between idealist and cynic, between Marat's faith in the revolution and de Sade's nihilistic individualism. Both of them are given their chance to speak their piece, and make their case as convincingly as possible, then savagely cut down. Marat's revolution becomes a pointless bloodbath that never makes a difference to the poor, and Sade's pursuit of passion degenerates into a Bacchanalian frenzy (the single most viscerally horrible part of the play, actually). And in case you thought reason and moderation might yield some kind of middle way that might lead you out of the mess, the Director of the asylum turns out to be every bit as corrupt as anyone else. In the end, the play turns to the audience, shrugs, and asks "Well, have you got a better idea?"

It was stunning. It was horrible. In case you're planning on Googling it, it should probably come with every trigger warning under the sun.
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October 2012

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