Stitching writer takes on Sade and prompts walk-outs

Anthony Nielsen's revival of Marat/Sade takes things a visceral step further, graphically depicting rape, sodomy with sex toys and the character of de Sade being tortured by a Taser gun.

It may have been an instant cult classic when it was first staged in 1964, but London theatregoers are walking out in disgust during a new production of Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade, directed by Anthony Nielson – writer of Stitching, which was banned from being performed in Malta when it was first submitted to the Film and Stage Classification Board in 2009.

The Royal Shakespeare Company production – premiered in Stratford-Upon-Avon on 14 October – i a complicated take on the life (and, predominantly, bloody death) of the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat.

The premise is based on a quirky historical episode: the audience is privy to the play put up at the Charenton Asylum in 1808, directed by the notorious political thinker and erotic writer Marquis de Sade, which illustrates Marat’s life. Sade aims to contest the idea that art purifies the soul, and the ensuing chaos he orchestrates with the help of his inmate actors puts paid to his theory with shocking gusto.

Nielson’s revival of the production, however, takes things a visceral step further, graphically depicting rape, sodomy with sex toys and the character of de Sade (played by Jasper Britton) being tortured by a Taser gun.

An average of 30 walkouts a night have allegedly been reported, with audience members lambasting the play’s “filth and depravity,” despite the its already notorious history. It appears that a crucial reason for people leaving early was that a rape scene occurs just before the interval, an irate 25-year-old theatregoer said.

“I knew it was supposed to be edgy but it was the worst kind of filth dressed up as quality theatre. They have got it badly wrong. I don’t blame people for walking out. They took it too far this time,” she told the British press.

Critics were also less than impressed by the production, generally finding it too reliant on shock tactics and, curiously, commenting on how it comes across as a rather “dated” example of the ‘In-Yer-Face’ theatre school.

“It tries incredibly hard to shock. But watching that litany of violence, you become quite numbed by it,” theatre critic Andrew Dixon said on BBC Radio 4 programme Front Row, while Dominic Cavendish, his colleague over at The Daily Telegraph, said that the play was “brave” but also that it “has all the makings of a RSC flop.”

A Maltese-language version of Marat/Sade was performed locally in December 2003 by Theaterworx at the MITP Theatre in Valletta. Directed by Marcelle Theuma, it elicited no controversy.

This illustrates perfectly well that censorship of the arts is out dated / none effective and self defeating. All one has to do if one feels offended is walk out of the theatre / gallery or not buy the book. Very simple really. If it wasn't for the outlawing of censorship plays by Ibsen,Miller,Becket,Pirandello,Strindberg to name but a few, wouldn't have seen the light of day. .Freedom of expression is to precious to be left to the mercy of reactionary philistinism.
It's amazing what filth is passed for "quality theatre" nowadays. What I find shocking is that so many people are actually paying for this filth when they can get it for free on the internet, which is literally overflowing with porn sites of all kinds. The sad thing is that people like Nielson are getting richer and richer fooling people in this way, and that some in Malta are all to happy to emulate him. And please, please, dont try to makes distiinctions between this filth and pornography. Actually I consider pornography as a higher art form than this filth. At least it provokes pleasure. But this filth?