MADAME DE SADE
Theatre Collection at the Lord Stanley Pub, NW1
for Remote Goat
De Sade was no stranger to the stage; but here, in a piece almost half a century old, Yukio Mishima turns the spotlight on the women in the Marquis's turbulent life.
The piece has a performance history in Europe which includes attempts by Bergman and Grandage. Now the enterprising Theatre Collection, experts in bringing World Theatre to NW1, are staging it in the cosy upper room of The Lord Stanley.
This is a wordy, philosophical, possibly allegorical, piece. Director Shaban Arifi [or perhaps Victor Sobchak, whose adaptation this is] chooses to mitigate the tedium by splitting his tiny stage – salon, pink curtains, stage right, dungeon, wall chains, stage left. And he brings the fantasies alluded to in the text to tentative life, dimly lit with the philosopher himself a major player, so that, like Kayden Jane's nun, you can "listen with your eyes". So we become voyeurs for the Christmas revels, the Black Mass and "danger, death and tendresse" in Venice.
The words, though, are almost all left to the womenfolk. I liked Marie Everett's Renée, Mme de Sade, with her beauty spot and her bloom about to fade, and especially Amanda Kay's Comtesse de Saint Fond, with her riding crop and her decadent drawl.
Despite some evocative costumes, none of the women really convinced as aristocrats, which is important in the revolutionary times of the Third Act. Worst offender here was Lesley Lightfoot, in an otherwise strong performance as the bird-like Mme de Montreuil, Sade's influential mother-in-law.
Good to see a fringe re-working of a legendary piece, but I felt the presence of De Sade [Carsten Gabode] diluted the climax, where he comes knocking at the door of the female enclave. And the blue-lit S&M sequences, once the novelty wore off, merely slowed the flow and prolonged the agony.