Soulpepper just can't stop.
In their third installment this September, Soulpepper presents audiences with an intensely gripping, evocative display of anarchy with Marat Sade. Playwright Peter Weiss' original title sums up the production quite perfectly: 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. Accompanied with an original score by Mike Ross, you simply cannot miss the historical insanity and epic madness that this work presents.
As the full title suggests, we are in the Asylum of Charenton during 1808. Using Brechtian principles to completely remove any wall of performance spectacle or isolation, you participate as the public in this special presentation put on by Coulmier's (C. David Johnson) asylum. As a work stemming from the 1960s, historical figures are here but presented as ideas, be it social, political or revolutionary. Using the death of Jean-Paul Marat as a base for the Marquis de Sade's (Diego Matamoros) revolutionary chaos, the inmates grapple with the theatrical form to benefit from personal expression. While this benefit behind the plot sounds accurate, to feel for the inmates is to miss the entire point of the production.
As the figures merely present ideas, the social influence of the 1960s is vividly seen throughout the entire production. Director Albert Schultz continues to keep the play relevant in our contemporary age with the addition of Ross' unique score to highlight the major climactic moments from the show. We are not meant to feel for these characters, these lunatics locked behind a cage, but rather reflect on the once radical ideas. Highlighting ideas of oppression through alienation, the message rings through with the ensemble’s chanting at the end - something I refuse to spoil, I think you'll understand.
Lorenzo Savoini's scenic design completely upholds the concept of epic theatre at its finest. The theatre is stripped, literally, to its bare minimums, leaving nothing to the imagination. Although the purpose behind Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre is to remove the fourth wall, the asylum presents an interesting psychological facet right before our eyes. To see beyond and into a cage of insanity is to observe and reflect, almost in a mirrored sense, the extent to which the play remains relevant.
Anahita Dehbonehie's costume design is both psychotic and superb at the same time, equally paralleled by Kevin Lamotte's lighting, which works tremendously well in bringing the full epic into effect.
Marat Sade is a successful continuation of an intense, raw and reflective fall season for Soulpepper. Bravo, and bravo again.
Marat Sade runs at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Oct. 17. For more information visit soulpepper.ca.