Friday, May 22, 2009

Play of the Week: Marat/Sade

Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade Best title ever!

Or to put it in English: 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 lovingly known as Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss, a play that truly stands alone as a theatrical achievement. But if you read it in the context of a progression of German drama, you will notice a profound progression.

Read in this order:
Faust by Goethe
Woyzeck by Georg Buchner
Spring Awakening and the works of Frank Wedekind
Everything by Bertold Brecht
And finally you arrive at Marat/Sade

The first thing you will undoubtedly notice is the dark and heavy subject matter most of these plays and playwrights tend to concern themselves with. Next thing you may find it that all these plays are rather Epic; Epic here used with its dual meaning. First, large in scope but also Epic with the capital "E" as in Epic Theatre.

Now I'm not trying to say that Brecht didn't develop this original idea on his own in the early 20th Century, no not at all - I'm saying that it is a part of the German tradition that starts with Goethe and has travelled down to Weiss and beyond; Marat/Sade being an excellent example of this.

In the spirit of the Play-of-the-Week posting stimulating a rereading of the play and discussion, spend some time with this important play and see if it really does continue the line of great German theatre. Or perhaps it is something entirely different. Or perhaps it begins a whole new movement of theatre. What do you think?

Happy Birthday: Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)

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