Seen at Tramway, Glasgow. Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Thu 13–Sat 15 Nov
Call it a testament to the human spirit or the will to triumph in the face of adversity, but for some reason, after the interval, the audience comes back. Perhaps, they are thinking, it is a mistake to imagine the acting is terrible. Maybe, they hope, the observation in the programme that the play has ‘clear arguments’ will prove correct (as surely it must with a drama of this pedigree). With a little luck, they speculate, those awkward longueurs where everyone stands around in between scenes will turn out to be a blip and the show will no longer feel as if it’s going to last forever.
Well, all praise the optimism of the will but, alas, no praise for Robert Rae’s excruciating production for Theatre Workshop of Peter Weiss’s 1964 play (full title: 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). Despite its discussion of the radical energy of the French Revolution, the overlaying of imagery from the ferment of 1968, and a company all too familiar with democracy’s failure to give a voice to the disabled, the production is bereft of meaning, political or otherwise. If the cast understand the material they fail to communicate it.
For a company on the cusp of losing its Arts Council grant, this self-indulgent show feels like a suicide note.