Time Out February 21, 2001

'Marat/Sade'
Arcola Theatre Fringe
Mark Espiner

One Critic, when asked if he had seen The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paut Marat, as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade', famously remarked: 'No, but I've read the title'. Even when abbreviated to 'Marat/Sade', the play can be correspond-ingly epic and swelter in a feverish bedlam atmosphere. Famously, it also has some tightly scripted and alienating moments of theatre. This production gets the epic bit (it has a cast of 26), and it gets the loony bit too: when you the enter the space, the fidgeting madmen are in place and pacing this cavernous one-time cloth-ing factory (recently converted into a theatre by Mehmet Ergen, the man behind Southwark Playhouse). But what it doesn't get is the clarity required to deliver the idiosyncratic theatrical style to tell this story. Sadly, it only rarely sharpens focus, losing itself all too often in the blurred morass of its grand scale.


But if fortune favours the brave - and this is a brave production - it has bestowed some redeeming moments.The design and lighting are outstanding: flickering candles and draped sheets conjure an asylum out of empty space. The music arrangements and their execution by a confident chorus resuscitate the per-formance at key points. The ensemble may work well, but the melodrama of some of the lead roles coupled with the overacted lunatic twitches from some of the inmates detract. The production only half creates Weiss's world and half a world is, unfortunately, not enough.


- 2001 Time Out

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