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May 2022


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“The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat”

As one of the performances during the Adelaide Fringe 2007 festival the TAFE Adelaide Centre for ARTS presented this theatre play by Peter Weiss, from 1964 and originally in German.  Directed by the Adelaidian Paul Peers, the 3rd year graduating students staged a play within a play, which for me in times was hard to understand.Set in a mental asylum in Post-Revolutionary France the students actually performed a play by the inmates themselves, directed by their fellow patient Marquis de Sade.  The play is mainly concerned with the discussion between de Sade and the revolutionary leader Jean Paul Marat, who (played by a female actor) spends most of his time in a bathtub.  Around them a group of dancers and actors set the stage of French real life, as acted out by the inmates in this asylum.
Throughout the play, the discussions between de Sade and Marat, rip apart everything Marat believed to be sound reasoning.  De Sade, on his own behalf, argues his disappointment with the Revolution knowing that his reality in the asylum is unfit for the “outside world”.
During the course of the play a couple of nuns care for a young, mainly sleeping woman, Charlotte Corday, who during the end of the show is to assassinate Marat.  In spite of all sexual embarrassment to them through the inmates, the nuns awake their protégé for several meetings with Marat, but only during the last one Charlotte manages to kill Marat with a knife.  Between the two women this scene is acted out by means of buckets of “blood” poured over them until Marat is “soundly dead”.
At the height of the show, the play pauses for an intersession, in which the actors present as contestants in a Game Show and the nuns are donned in skimpy outfits as cheer leaders. Through a series of questions and answers we learn of the events, which led to the assassination of Marat.
Fortunately, I had a chance to meet one of the main actors beforehand, Alan Grace, whom I coached in expressing a few German sentences accurately during the end of the play.  Since I also know the play designer, Jenn Havelberg, I was able to speak briefly with the director, Paul Peers.  Currently living in New York, Paul emphasised that this performance was to be seen as a message to an increasingly maddening world, “it’s the question my play is asking!”

(Written in March 2007 for a TAFE ESL course)

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