Brilliantly performed and beautifully designed. The clunky academic translation is not alone capable of ruining the whole. It is one of the best shows i have seen for a long time. A privelege to see those divine actresses all onstage together. Funnily enough the only Donmar turkey has only women in it. Its been a long time coming the blow to Grandage's ego but it had to come and the critics have finally found a way to do it. You have to like minimum action/all talking French style plays (which I do)... it will be interesting to see if the critics can hack Mirren in Phedre. Or maybe Ted Hughes has put all the action back onstage to satisfy British bloodthirstiness contrary to the tradition. We'll see... - davethecat
22 May 09
A play that seems to have got better and better the longer it's gone on, the performances have settled down, and Rosamund Pike is absolutely sensational and emotionally moving. I'm glad I hadn't listened to earlier reviews but tried this for myself. - dgr1
21 May 09
Shudder at the the initial salacious exchanges; bored by the worn out ideas; the only play I have seen after which I couldn't applaud; to embarrassed to smile to a neighbour. I went to evensong at St Paul's afterwards and the psalm was restoring celebrations of flesh and strength.
- Alan J A
26 Apr 09
I learnt a very valuable lesson today, which was not to take what the reviews say at first hand. On the strength of the mauling this play received and coupled with Judi Dench's injury earlier in the run, I decided to give up my tickets for this play.
Today I was given another opportunity to see it and decided to accept the offer.
What a magnificent staging - the set, the costumes were absolutely wonderous.
The play starts well with Frances Barber perfectly cast and in very mischevious, delicious form. She is a delight to watch, especially when playing characters with a darker side as the Comtesse de Saint-Fond certainly posesses. There is fine inter-play with Deborah Findlays stright laced Baronesse De Simiane and then the wounded, anguished Madame De Montreuil played superbly by Judi Dench.
The sisters, Anne and Renee played by Fiona Button and Rosamund Pike are intriguing to watch in their pursuit of the Marquis who at first seems nothing more than a brut, vile man. But as the play goes on, these assumptions become less clear as Renee explains that the rose and snake live alongside each other in the same world. I am left wondering if their pursuit of this man and determination to do the right thing for him and by him is more about their strength of will than their weakness in this man's presence?
Beautifully acted by the whole company, it leaves plenty of pause for thought. It's all too easy to take these productions at face value. I am glad I did not today and feel rewarded by the experience. In future I shall make up my own mind, rather than relying too much on what others say. - Paul Wallis
25 Apr 09
Well, I suppose it was only time before we got the Donmar Turkey, but I didn't think it would be such a big turkey that it doesn't even fit in the oven. The ladies spend 100 minutes telling us about a play that is clearly happening offstage and sounds a lot more interesting than the one onstage. I feel really sorry for these fine actors having to go though this eight times a week for c.10 weeks. I make that 8000 excruciating minutes of turgid lifeless drama. Someone should put them out of their misery. - Gareth James
22 Apr 09
Well, it looked magnificent (all credit to Christopher Oram for that) and started out promisingly enough, but oh God did it go on! An afternoon snooze, as someone says here, maybe, but I can also vouch for an evening snooze too! Still it was great to see Francis Barber and Deborah Finley in action again who are always a delight to see. But the dame? She is becoming somewhat repetitive of late? Perhaps it's her age or maybe she's run out of ideas or maybe it's??? But a lack lustre performance from her I am afraid to report. Rosamund Pike, however, makes up for the lot by delivering a tour de force in the final scene. Yet it was still not enough to redeem the tedium of the piece. It's no wonder Yukio Mishima committed Hari Kari - if he hadn't done so I'm sure many would have gladly helped him to do so! A nice idea, but let down by a tedious script. Never mind it's been a great season and one which should have helped swell the Donmar's coffers for next year. - rds
21 Apr 09
Silly old Judi, perhaps she'll read the script before signing the next time. - coral
10 Apr 09
I cannot fault the acting, directing or scenery -- and the costumes were sumptuous. Sadly, though, I didn't think there was anything of interest in the play itself. I like to care about at least one of the characters I see on stage, but here I couldn't care less about any of them. And the tales of the sordid marquis's debauchery were frankly tedious, I thought. It's a great shame that such talented actors don't have better subject matter. I loved Ivanov and Twelfth Night, and have great hopes for Hamlet, but this one just didn't do it for me. - LDE
06 Apr 09
Itís 18th century France, 17 years before the Revolution, and in the crumbling splendour of a chateau, one extravagantly-gowned lady scandalises her sanctimonious friend with a scabrous account of Alphonse, Marquis de Sade. The themes of the sacred and profane are declared at once, and an impassioned debate unfolds as the world hurtles into revolt.
But this costume drama is more Perversity and Perversion than Pride and Prejudice. The conventional Madame de Montreuil connives to protect her daughters and her own good name from the corruption of the Marquis, while Renee, his wife, embraces his debasements with the fervour of a martyr. The rose and the snake exist in the same world, though one is beautiful and one repels.
The lives of the six women in the play are informed and controlled by their relationship to Alphonse, as though he were a god providing spiritual sustenance and judgement. They are not ciphers: they argue their complex cases with intellect, passion and conviction. Renee is persuasive; her mother is plausible, and their friends reach their predetermined resolutions as they lose their foothold in their society. In the dialectic, Mishima remains tantalisingly objective, challenging us to draw our own conclusions.
The play moves swiftly through three short acts, and at times I longed to slow it down to consider the arguments at greater length. It is vividly acted: Rosamund Pike astonishes as Renee, and Judi Dench provides an anguished portrait of a woman driven to desperate measures. It looks ravishing, with the attention to detail in lighting and sound that we know we can depend on from Michael Grandage.
Those who book for Dench rather than Mishima/Grandage surely get what they deserve, but I have been haunted by it since I saw it. - fredo
28 Mar 09
It's indicative of the drawing power of the Donmar 'brand' (and Judi Dench) that an unknown play by an obscure Japanese writer was virtually sold out in advance of the reviews. However, Michael Grandage has previously demonstrated that he can be occasionally fallible (The Cut, The Cryptogram, God of Hell) and Madame de Sade is a shocker. It's stunning to look at and beautifully acted but the endless speeches concerning the repetitive debauchery of the absent de Sade succeeded only in inducing an afternoon snooze for large portions of the audience. At the curtain call Dame Judi looked in considerable pain - possibly from her injured ankle but possibly because she's stuck in this awful play for several more weeks. - David Baxter
26 Mar 09
After reading the 'mixed' reviews, I was sure this was going to be an interesting piece, and indeed it was (for many reasons). Not your usual West End fare but certainly collectible. The critics had seemed determined not to be impressed by its credentials, and I can imagine anyone lured by the bar, hungry for a sushi, or impatient for some action, they may find it's high style a trial. But I was fascinated throughout. This is theatre as baroque tableaux, intimate yet operatic, a surprising discussion on the private life behind sadomasochism's most famous master. Its language is formal, poetic and extravagant, its presentation ornate. It has that reassuring Donmar stamp of originality. I look forward to seeing it again. - Mikey
Whatsonstage.com - Discount London theatre tickets, theatre news and reviews, Theatre videos, Theatre discussion, National Theatre Listings. Covering London's West End, all of Theatreland and all UK theatre. The best
for London Theatre Ticket Discounts.