Culture Magazine

Royal Shakespeare Company’s Edgy Marat/Sade Production is Met by Angry Walkouts

By Periscope @periscopepost
The RSC's new envisioning of Marat / Sad is full of computers, terrorists and taser guns. Photo Credit: Mike Licht,,

The RSC's new envisioning of Marat / Sade is full of computers, terrorists and taser guns. Photo Credit: Mike Licht,,

The RSC’s new production of Marat/Sade has had people leaving the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in droves since it opened on Thursday last week.The Guardian reported that the RSC had “admitted” to an average of thirty people per performance leaving the theatre before the play had ended.

So what’s so shocking? The play is a new adaptation of the 1963 play 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 by Swedish playwright Paul Weiss. The action focuses on a supposed play directed by Sade and performed by the inmates of the asylum in 1808 — along the way, we see an actor raped with a sex toy, a dwarf performing oral sex on a bishop and the Marquis being tied up and beaten.

Theatre-goer Kate Dee left the performance, disgusted, telling Claire Ellicot at The Daily Mail that she “knew it was supposed to be edgy but it was the worst kind of filth dressed up as quality theatre.”

Overheated sensationalism. “The overkill in the actual staging” (the audience is bombarded with “shock effects” such as tasers and laptop-wielding terrorists) ruins the performance sniped Michael Billington at The Guardian. The play’s “oppositional arguments” are enough to heat up the audience — leave the shock value out.

Sure to be a flop. Richard Alleyne at The Daily Telegraph gave a more balanced report of the response, concluding with some opinion from The Daily Telegraph’s theatre critics; Charles Spencer, head theatre critic, was staggered that people would find it offensive. “What else would you expect when it’s the Marquis de Sade and a bunch of lunatics doing the French Revolution?” he questioned. Deputy Theatre Critic Dominic Cavendish said, “I think it is brave but it has all the makings of a RSC flop.”

Great parallels to the Arab Spring. In a perceptive review for Bloomberg Business Week, Warwick Thompson praised the play’s references to modern-day events. He might want to revise this, though, — “when the RSC first stagedMarat/Sade in 1964, some theater-goers considered scenes like this disgusting in the extreme. Nowadays, we’re so used to depictions of torture-porn on our stages, that there are unlikely to be many who feel the need to reach for the sick-bag”.


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