Monday, May 04, 2009

"Madame de Sade" - May 2009

This afternoon while I was starting to mentally draft this post, there was the serious possibility that it may amount to simply – “The dresses were pretty.” Partly because I was struggling to gather the enthusiasm to put pen to paper but it was also due to the fact that I could recall so little about it. While I’ll often comment that a show is in danger of being forgettable, I do believe that this is the first time that a mere three days later I had absolutely no recollection of how a play ended (even after racking my brain for a good thirty minutes). I swear I didn’t nod off (sitting in the front row it was just too risky), and I gave it my full attention throughout. I suspect the reason I couldn’t remember is that even while I was watching it, I just didn’t care. I’ve since remembered the ending so no Postcards please – there is no prize!

Yukio Mishima's account of the lives of six women (some real, some fictional) around the Marquis De Sade wasn’t necessarily a bad one, and the play (translated by Donald Keene) certainly has some nice moments but it’s also terribly self-important and the execution lacks any fire. It never managed to be more than a curiosity piece and I had zero emotional investment in the characters.

But let's be honest, like the vast majority of the audience, we hadn’t come to see the play, we’d come to see Judi Dench. For me Dame Judi’s performance was fine, as were all the cast, however Waldorf wasn’t as impressed. And I can see where she’s coming from. The performances are hampered by a direction style that leaves characters frequently seeming to direct their dialogue at the audience rather than to each other, and there are a few too many knowing ‘turn to camera’ looks which give an almost pantomime or bedroom farce feel to the performances – particularly any scene with Frances Barber’s Comtesse de Saint-Fond.

It doesn't make for an unenjoyable evening - I certainly smiled on several occasions - but it lacks any kind of genuine impact and really just washed over us. And given the level of talent on stage that has to go down as a disappointment.

But oh yes - the dresses were pretty.

Madame De Sade is part of the Donmar West End season at Wyndham's Theatre, London until 23 May.
Image by Hugo Glendinning used with permission

1 Heckle

Waldorf said...

I particularly like Rosamund Pike's in the 3rd Act. A fetching little pale blue number.