The Marquis de Sade is famous for finding enjoyment, particularly sexual pleasure, in the causing of pain to others, hence words such as ‘sadistic’. He wrote quite proliferously whilst being imprisoned for his ‘libertine lifestyle’ and was for some time locked up in an insane asylum. Much of his work is erotica about cruelty, including murder, and there is a great deal of repetition to his writing, which has had people arguing over its merit for centuries.
This repetition and wondering how to take the works is evident watching MoshPit’s production of his 1795 book, Philosophy in the Bedroom. There are those who find useful philosophical thought in de Sade’s writing, particularly with respect to false morality and hypocritical religious behaviour, and there is some political propoganda, in this work, regarding an exhortation to French Revolutionists to continue their fervour by getting rid of religion as well as their previously ruling class. Such thought does not, however, appear with any clarity in MoshPit’s production and what little mention is made of why people should follow de Sade’s version of libertinism is rushed through, barely intelligible and badly scripted. This dialogue problem starts with the source material, but has not been adapted with improvement.
The basic story is that of a fifteen-year-old girl being taught libertinage and there is some humour in the education of her by a slightly older woman, her brother and his friend. Things become particularly shocking when the girl’s mother is introduced and then punished with rape and torture for her moral constraints. Costume is period, with wigs, waistcoats, breeches, etc. though the females are mostly in lingerie, and set is simply a large bed. There are physical dance interludes within a blood-red light relating to de Sade’s own life, reflecting connection between the fictional girl’s mother and a woman de Sade was famous for having imprisoned and abused.
The acting is superficial, like the script, though it allows some entertaining comedy, but in the end there were a number of people left wondering about the few who continued to find laughter in rape and torture. There is an energy and sense of endeavour to this production, with a slightly strange ability to entertain with dildos and like appendages, but in the end the enjoyment a member of the audience will gain depends very much on their own interests.
If the bedroom part of Philosophy in the Bedroom interests you, there is some comedy titillation before the production ends with considerations of murder and actions of torture. If it is thoughts of exploring de Sade’s philosophy that draw you, it is probably better to stay away.
By Danielle Farrow
15 – 27 August, 22:15 (23:30) @ theSpaces on North Bridge