Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade”
When I saw this item, I wondered if this was truly a real play. It made sense that just memorizing the title would be quite the accomplishment and a great conversation starter. I happened to catch a post about a production of this play being performed last year (2017).
I knew I had to go see it. I didn’t really think anything about what it exactly was about until after I saw it live. The cast did a great job adding in modern elements (not sure if that is part of what the play is supposed to do). I really thought it funny they gave out “Make France Great Again” buttons.
It is not your typical play, you walk in and become a part of the cast yourself. Here, I was handed a clipboard and guided by a “hospital attendant” to a chair. We became observers in a mental hospital where the warden was allowing the inmates to perform a play. It was also a kind of musical.
I’m grabbing the plot from Wikipedia:
Set in the historical Charenton Asylum, Marat/Sade is almost entirely a “play within a play”. The main story takes place on 13 July 1808, after the French Revolution; the play directed by the Marquis de Sade within the story takes place during the Revolution, in the middle of 1793, culminating in the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (which took place on 13 July 1793), then quickly brings the audience up to date (1808). The actors are the inmates of the asylum; the nurses and supervisors occasionally step in to restore order. The bourgeois director of the hospital, Coulmier, supervises the performance, accompanied by his wife and daughter. He is a supporter of the post-revolutionary government led by Napoleon, in place at the time of the production, and believes the play he has organised to be an endorsement of his patriotic views. His patients, however, have other ideas, and they make a habit of speaking lines he had attempted to suppress, or deviating entirely into personal opinion. They, as people who came out of the revolution no better than they went in, are not entirely pleased with the course of events as they occurred.
In the end, we, the audience, become the inmates and the inmates the audience. It reminded me a lot of philosophical debates and talking about socialism. I used to enjoy those ponderings and had not realized that I had forgotten about it for so long. It was a little hard to follow the dialogue at times, but the gist of it was an argument between Sade and Marat on the factors of revolution, is really good to have for changing the class system and helping human suffering or does it just change who’s at top and who is at bottom. They also discuss if it’s good to have the revolution as a movement by everyone or just work one changing yourself.
I read more about the author being a German and he wrote this during the 1960’s which authors were delving into kind of abstract, bizarre, ways to talk about class struggles and socialism. And his picking the true life people of Jean-Paul Marat and the Marquis de Sade were a good choice. They were very interesting characters.
I wouldn’t mind going to see this play again, maybe catch some things that I didn’t this first time. I might even try to get friends to come with me. They might enjoy or end up asking what the heck?
have you seen this play? Or even heard about it?