Friday, April 03, 2009

Play 'Til It Hurts - Madame de Sade - Play Review

Madame de Sade - Donmar in the West End - Wyndham's Theatre - London, UK - *** (out of 5)
Written by Yukio Mishima, Translated by Donald Keene, Directed by Michael Grandage
Until May 23rd 2009

To be honest, I didn't know much about the Marquis de Sade except that he was into whips, and I didn't know much about this show except that Dame Judi Dench was going to be in it, which is why I bought tickets over a year ago. Alas, then the reviews started pouring out and more than half were probably pretty bad or pointed that the show was really boring. Oh no I thought. Self-torture theatre. Oh great. Why do I keep insisting on seeing plays? At least a bad musical is still kinda fun.

Alas, the Japanese play (which in a good review I read somewhere compared it to a zen Japanese poem) wasn't as bad I had anticipated. It wasn't great, but it definitely had it's moments, and the amazing cast of 6 amazing British actresses was a sight to behold on a silvery dark set. (Though I will say, the writer's own life, and his failed ritual suicide 5 years after he wrote this, is probably even more fascinating).

The play isn't as shocking as it thinks it is (interestingly enough, Gratuitous Violins brings up an interesting debate the Boston Globe brought up about the loss of shock value in theatre, which I partly agree, since I wasn't really shocked by Dog Sees God, August:Osage County or any other "shocking" play). It does quickly explain the Marquis de Sade to the uninitiated and then goes into three acts of debate between the women surrounding the Marquis' life about his sexual provocations, marriage and devotion and the abhorrencies of it all.

Sometimes it's fascinating and funny, sometimes it's a bore. Some of the long passages are amusing and fascinating while other times, it seems to drone on forever.

Luckily, the Madame de Sade is played by the utterly gorgeous and stunning Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, Die Another Day), and her acting is a beautiful as her face (which really, is no fair if you think about it!). She commands the stage anytime she's on, managing to portray frail and delicate and female strength all at the same time, AND she manages to hold her own against the always commanding Dame Judi Dench.

And yes, the reason I bought tickets in the first place, Dame Judi Dench was exactly that, Dame Judi Dench, and it was wonderful if not surprising. She sneers and bosses around as Madame de Montreuil, Madame de Sade's shocked mother, whose attention over her daughters, and their place in society (of course, this IS Europe afterall) is of her upmost concern.

Luckily, while Pike and Dench argue over what's good for the Madame de Sade, Frances Barber (The I.T. Crowd, Beautiful People, Goal) has a hell of a time whipping up her lines with a dry wit zest as Comtesse de Saint-Fond, a rival to Madame de Montreuil who is asked to help her daughter. Barber's character adds the little fun and naughtiness in the play that only talks about it, but never shows it.

The play is far less poetic than I thought it might be (or it thinks it is), although the production with it's rusted silver set and projections adds more dimension than some of the speeches. The cast automatically adds an air of authenticity and respect but the play itself is kind of a trashy play trying to be all arty and high class.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm a huge Rosamund Pike fan and wondered what she's been up to. She turns up here and again on Masterpiece Theatre (Love in a Cold Climate, Mothers and Daughters, Foyle's War), but not recently.

International Jock Crocs, Inc. Bare Necessities>