Photos – Bob Seary
Like a nightmare production of Les Mis, New Theatre’s presentation of 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, is a sprawling, chaotic theatrical beast.
The prosecution and abbreviation of the play to the more manageable MARAT/SADE is performed by a massive cast seeking asylum under the direction of Barry French.
The set is impressive: a cage imprisoning the actors, a pit where the pendulum of the politically packed narrative swings between the pedestalled bathtub where French Revolutionist, Marat, soaks in solution to an insidious skin disease and the seething masses of demented detention centre inmates.
Director Barry French makes the choice of having asylum seekers play “the inmates of the asylum”, detainees driven mad by displacement and alienating incarceration, bringing a contemporary resonance to the issues raised in the play – basic human rights, the manipulation of capital and labour, the military industrial complex.
Details and textures, like a cheeky subversion of La Marseillaise into Advance Australia Fare and almost subliminal statements on the backs of placards, further feather the production’s contemporary nest.
Another interesting contemporary choice is the gender reversal of Marat, historically a male, and his partner Simmone, historically a female. Annette van Roden as Marat is striking, a statue in white, turban wrapped, racked with pain, resolute and robust in the rhetoric of her political belief. And Garreth Cruikshank as Simmone is just as eloquent in his silences and in his ministrations to protect his mate.
Equally eloquent in non-verbal performance is Lyn Collingwood as Madame Coulmier, silently knitting through the show like a mute Madame Defarge.
More boisterously garrulous is Jim McCrudden’s Herald, a mischievous MC, part narrator, part choirmaster, part court jester, blowing trumpet and raspberries, giving jaunty jeer and good cheer to his subversive verse.
Productions values are first rate, from Tom Bannerman’s excellent set, through Spiros Hristias’ lighting, composer Nate Edmondson’s score and sound design and costumes by Nicola Block.
Chaotic, rambunctious, percussive and provocative, MARAT/SADE is a theatrical bull untethered and let loose among political and economic sacred cows and a whole herd of social injustice.
New Theatre presents
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 Peter Weiss | translated by Geoffrey Skelton | poems translated by Adrian Mitchell
Director Barry French
Venue: New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown NSW
Dates: 5 October – 5 November 2016
Tickets: $17 - $32