Friday, November 21, 2008

Marat/ Sade by peter Weiss, directed by Peter Brook

(The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of Monsieur de Sade)

Great Britain, 1966

Director: Peter Brook

Production: United Artists; De Luxe Color; running time: 115 minutes. Released in USA February 1967.

Producer: Lord Michael Birkett with the Royal Shakespeare Company; screenplay: Adrian Mitchell; English translation by Geoffrey Skelton; based on a play by Peter Weiss; assistant director: Anthony Way; photography: David Watkin; editor: Tom Priestly; sound: Robert Allen; art director: Ted Marshall; music: Richard Peaslee; choreographer: Malcolm Goddard.

Cast: Patrick Magee (Marquis de Sade); Ian Richardson (Jean-Paul Marat); Glenda Jackson (Charlotte Corday); Clifford Rose (Coulmier); Brenda Kempner (Mme Coulmier); Ruth Baker (Mlle. Coulmier); Freddie Jones (Cucurucu); Robert Lloyd (Jacques Roux); Leon Lissek (Lavoisier); John Harwood (Lavoisier); Jack Steiner (Dupperet); Michael Williams (Herald); Hugh Sullivan (Kokol); Jonathan Burn (Polpach); Jeanette Landis (Rossignol); Susan Williamson (Simone Evrard); Mark Jones (Abbott); and others.

Awards: Silver Ribbon for Best Director of a Foreign Film, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, 1966; Special Mention (Brook), Locarno International Film Festival, 1967.



Brook, Peter, et. al., "Marat/Sade Forum," in Tulane Drama Review, vol. 10, no. 4, Summer 1966.

New York Times, 23 February 1967.

White, John J., "History and Cruelty in Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade," in Modern Language Review, vol. 63, 1968.

Roberts, David, "Marat/Sade, or the Birth of Postmodernism from the Spirit of the Avant-Garde," in Postmodern Conditions, edited by Milner, Thompson, and Worth, New York, 1990.

Holderness, Graham, "Weiss/Brook: Marat/Sade," in Twentieth Century European Drama, edited by Brian Docherty, New York, 1994.

* * *

In 1966, world-famous stage director Peter Brook adapted the visionary play by Peter Weiss, a German dramatist who lived in Sweden until his death in 1982. The full title of the film is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. The complexity of the title is matched by the complicated relationship to history and politics it offers. The didactic full title of the play heralds a complex political drama rarely seen on film. This film does not aim at persuasiveness or at presenting an objective analysis of a distinct historical event. Instead, it offers a complicated unfolding of a play within a play about drama and history that simultaneously challenges the spectator to rethink political philosophy and the nature of human nature.

Brook's filmed version of Weiss's play opens in the bathhouse of the insane asylum at Charenton, France, in the year 1808. The asylum's most notorious inmate, Marquis de Sade (Patrick Magee), has been commissioned to write and direct a play for the inmates to perform "as therapy," for Parisian high society. Sade stages a play about the assassination of the French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat at the height of the Terror in 1793. The play itself represents four historical levels: the failed revolution in 1793, the asylum where the play was staged in 1808, the filming in 1966, and the spectator's current viewing.

The play is based on two historical truths: that the Marquis de Sade was interned in the asylum in the Paris suburb of Charenton for 13 years (from 1801 until his death in 1814); and that Marat was fatally stabbed in a bathtub by Charlotte Corday at the height of terror in the French Revolution in 1793. The sparse facts form the basis of an imagined performance by members of asylum. The play is performed by inmates of the asylum and overseen, monitored, and intermittently interrupted by the asylum's staff. The patients' white costumes and the white face worn by some of the cast provide a drab background for the opulent aristocratic audience, who have come to the asylum to watch the show. Thematically, this film is about history itself, the events of the French revolution, class conflict, and the conditions of an early nineteenth century asylum, where plays were part of the therapeutic process. But the play-within-a-play is not just a historical drama. Rather, it is clearly concerned with the problem of revolution.

Marat and Sade debate the philosophical and political impact of the French Revolution while surrounded by inmates of the asylum. Their debate circulates around certain compelling and difficult questions: are the things that are true for the masses also true for their leaders? Where, in modern times, lies the borderline of sanity? Marat advocates the need for revolution. Sade (who historically did write while an inmate of the asylum) views the world solely in individualistic terms and voices extreme pessimism about the outcome of revolution.

For Marat, the problems of existence have social and political solutions and revolution holds the potential for transformation. Sade, on the other hand, champions the depravity and perversity inherent in human nature. In addition to these two poles of belief, a chorus of other voices are present: The asylum director is present, with his wife and daughter, to interrupt the action when the revolutionary rhetoric goes too far and the historical revision not far enough. The priest strives to uphold the rules of the church, and the audience is bent on entertainment. The herald provides an ongoing ironic commentary on events, while Charlotte Corday, the narcoleptic heroine and assassin, speaks contemptuously of the slaughter in Paris, with phrases like, "They talk of people now as gardeners talk of leaves for burning."

The collision of existentialism with political fanaticism amid chaos provides no easy answers. Whether a parable of modern society (life is a madhouse in which we are all prisoners) or a deliberate technique designed to shock and push action and dialogue to excess, this film is not a patronizing, overwrought debate; on the contrary, it provides an intellectual, chronological, and visual challenge. In the 34 years since its premiere, the simply staged, one-room film remains unprecedented in its combination of classic Brechtian and Artaudian theory as well as Marxist political critique and experimental vision. The members of the Royal Shakespeare Company provide a compellingly disturbed rendition of the claustrophobic atmosphere of a Parisian insane asylum in the early nineteenth century.

The unusual, minimalist cinematography of Watkins creates a harsh, at times surreal, effect. His skillful camera work varies extreme, lingering close-ups with erratic camera movement to heighten the unpredictability and exacerbate the feeling of uncontrolled violence building beneath the surface. The camera work implicates the spectator in the play's unfolding, revealing that there is no safe place from which to watch the film at a distance. The use of a hand-held camera, especially, makes us feel that we too are inmates involved in the activity of the asylum.

In a similarly innovative manner, the spectator is not given a linear narrative, except in the synopsis of the entire film provided at the beginning of the play by a herald. Thus, one is forced to participate actively in the making of the meaning and message of the play (and the film). According to Graham Holderness, "the play present[s] political violence and human extremity through a philosophical violence and a self-reflexive theatrical medium." The film raises such questions as, who benefits from the revolution? Do the ends justify the means? Charenton, "an intense characterization of the wretched of the earth" writes Holderness, was a place for the socially unacceptable (whether clinically insane or not). This institution was, acording to Weiss, a "hiding place for the moral rejects of civilized society" and was designed to maintain discipline, order, and social control for 'civilized' societies.

Brook's adaptation of the play reveals strong overtones of Antonin Artaud's 'Theater of Cruelty,' which touted a new dramatic language, liberated from the narrative continuity and the conventions of realist theater. The events of the play and its the setting in an asylum jar the senses of both the audience and the performers, agitating viewers at a sensory level and thus involving them emotionally as well as intellectually. One witnesses the use of Brechtian estrangement as asylum inmates constantly forget their lines, fall out of their roles, and have to be prompted. Moreover, the film is divided into episodes, all of which are continuously interrupted by formal debate, political songs, direct audience address, mime, and pageant. The characters break into song, speak in rhyme, have mental attacks (narcolepsy, seizures, itching attacks, and so forth.) This constant interruption and mixing of the different historical levels serves as a reminder of the blurry line between life and representation.

The film concludes with Marat's rising from his death to pronounce final words of faith in revolutionary collectivism: "Others now will carry on/the fight that I Marat begun/until one day the hour shall strike/when men will share and share alike." Sade rejoins with pour individualism "So for me the last word can never be spoken/I am left with a question that is always open." The entirely imagined encounter between Marat and Sade reflects the Marxist belief in history as a conflict between two contradictory forces, represented by the beliefs of Marat and Sade. On one level a historical drama about France in the aftermath of the 1789 revolution, and a philosophical debate between the collective and the individual, Brook's film also pushes the limits, testing whether a film should take up a political stance or maintain a dignified detachment in the interests of objectivity.

—Jill Gillespie

visual culture and performance art in Jawaharlal Nehru University

of late , but since long I've been conceiving this sort of a engagement where we could stress and bring in lime light the rich visual culture in Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus, and the intrinsic element of Performance art lingering with the former.this post is one of the several blogs that i want to post on JNU,visual( Political & Aesthetic) Culture.
recently these painting were etched on the wall of a Dhaba(Eating Joint) in campus protesting against the administration unlawful treatment of the Labourers.

the poster talk about invisible labour by depicting these black masked people. and the shadows of the labours on the wall of the Dhaba.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Regrets for misposting photographs of Vikramorvashiyam!

The Editorial Board sincerely regrets the inadvertent digital error in mis-posting the photographs of Vikramorvashiyam in the blog http// posting- "Vikramorvashiyam (Urvashi won by valour) performed by NSD" dated 15.11.2008. It further appeals to all concerned authorities to consider the case and be kind enough to ignore the mistake, providing oneself a chance to improve, upon the benefit of doubt.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vikramorvashiyam (Urvashi Won by Valour) performed by NSD

National School of Drama
second year Students
Kalidasa's Vikramorvashiyam
Music- Govind Pandey
Choreography- Anjana Rajan
Direction K S Rajendran.
Staged in NSD from 11- 15 November, 2008

i am privileged to present you with a very personal and analytical response of the latest performance that provide you with a glimpse of the ancient, classical into the modern..or rather post..., i think this should be the idiom of reinterpreting the classical into our times and making it accessible to us, speaking to us in our own language but never losing essence of the language(language in every sense of the term) of the original/source/(here classical) tradition!

it has been not quite a long association with Rajendran sir...
i personally worked with him in Hamare Samay Mein, last year when Rajendran sir directed the play for Bahroop. However. that short span of time, during the production of Hamare Samay Mein,a bond developed amongst whole crew.
of course....sir himself use to comment theatre is all about bonding relying on each other completely. the production helped us to understand the meaning of the above quoted lines.I personally, was introduced to "the play" as a category and then began to learn, how to translate it into the language of theatre/ performance.
sir, is always a constant source of learning and fills you with an energy,which is very different in itself.
Last year we watched the much acclaimed production 'Mrichhkatikkam' by Sir. This year Vikramorvashiyam is yet another jewel carved out of a raw diamond with exquisite dexterity and understanding.
this play is a worth watch!!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Noh theatre and Kyogen straight from japan

Noh (能 Nō?), or Nōgaku (能楽?) is a major form of classic Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Together with the closely-related kyōgen farce, it evolved from various popular, folk and aristocratic art forms, including Dengaku, Shirabyoshi, and Gagaku. Although Noh has been slow and stylised for several centuries, its roots can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty's Nuo, (傩, 戏), Sarugaku (derived from "Wu musical" traditions in various Chinese dynasties), and folk theatricals.
Kan'ami and his son Zeami brought Noh to its present-day form during the Muromachi period under the patronage of the powerful Ashikaga clan. It would later influence other dramatic forms such as Kabuki and Butoh. During the Meiji era, although its governmental patronage was lost, Noh and Kyōgen received official recognition as two of the three national forms of drama.
By tradition, Noh actors and musicians never rehearse for performances together. Instead, each actor, musician, and choral chanter practices his or her fundamental movements, songs, and dances independently or under the tutelage of a senior member of the school. Thus, the tempo of a given performance is not set by any single performer but established by the interactions of all the performers together. In this way, Noh exemplifies the traditional Japanese aesthetic of transience, called by Sen no Rikyu "ichi-go ichi-e".

Noh stage. Center: shite; front right: waki; right: eight-member jiutai (chorus); rear center: four hayashi-kata (musicians); rear left: two kohken (stage hands).
There are four major categories of Noh performers: shite, waki, kyōgen, and hayashi.
The shite (仕手, シテ), literally "doers" are the most common roles in Noh
Shite (primary actor). In plays where the shite appears first as a human and then as a ghost, the first role is known as the maeshite and the later as the nochishite
Shitezure (仕手連れ, シテヅレ) The shite's companion. (Sometimes abbreviated to "tsure" (連れ, ツレ), although this term refers to both the shitezure and the wakizure. (See below.))
The waki (脇, ワキ) performs the role that is the counterpart or foil of the shite
The wakizure (脇連れ, ワキヅレ) is the companion of the waki
The kyōgen (狂言) perform the aikyogen(相狂言) interludes during plays. Kyōgen actors also perform in separate plays between individual noh plays
The hayashi (囃子) or hayashi-kata (囃子方) are the instrumentalists who play the four instruments used in Noh theater: the transverse flute (fue 能管), hip drum (okawa or ōtsuzumi 大鼓), the shoulder-drum (kotsuzumi 小鼓), and the stick-drum (taiko 太鼓).
The jiutai (地謡) is the chorus, usually comprising six to eight people
Kōken (後見) are stage hands, usually one to three people
A typical Noh play will involve four or five categories of actors and usually takes 30-120 minutes. Noh actors were almost exclusively male.


There are approximately 250 plays in the current repertoire, which can be divided according to a variety of schemes. The most common is according to content, but there are several other methods of organization.
Kami mono (神物) or waki nō (脇能) typically feature the shite in the role of a human in the first act and a deity in the second and tell the mythic story of a shrine or praise a particular spirit.
Shura mono (修羅物) or ashura nō (阿修羅能, warrior plays) have the shite often appearing as a ghost in the first act and a warrior in full battle regalia in the second, re-enacting the scene of his death.
Katsura mono (鬘物, wig plays) or onna mono (女物, woman plays) depict the shite in a female role and feature some of the most refined songs and dances in all of Noh.
There are about 94 "miscellaneous" plays, including kyōran mono (狂乱物) or madness plays, onryō mono (怨霊物) or vengeful ghost plays, and genzai mono (現在物), plays which depict the present time, and which do not fit into the other categories.
Kiri nō (切り能, final plays) or oni mono (鬼物, demon plays) usually feature the shite in the role of monsters, goblins, or demons, and are often selected for their bright colors and fast-paced, tense finale movements.

Mugen nō (夢幻能) usually deals with spirits, ghosts, phantasms, and supernatural worlds. Time is often depicted as passing in a non-linear fashion, and action may switch between two or more timeframes from moment to moment.
Genzai nō (現在能), as mentioned above, depicts normal events of the everyday world. However, when contrasted with mugen instead of with the other four categories, the term encompasses a somewhat broader range of plays.

Geki nō (劇能) or drama plays are based around the advancement of plot and the narration of action.
Furyū nō (風流能) or dance plays focus rather on the aesthetic qualities of the dances and songs which are performed.
Okina (or Kamiuta) is a unique play which combines dance with Shinto ritual. It is considered the oldest type of Noh play, and is probably the most often performed. It will generally be the opening work at any programme or festival.

The Tale of the Heike, a medieval tale of the rise and fall of the Taira clan, originally sung by blind monks who accompanied themselves on the biwa, is an important source of material for Noh (and later dramatic forms), particularly warrior plays. Another major source is The Tale of Genji, an eleventh century work of profound importance to the later development of Japanese culture. Authors also drew on Nara and Heian period Japanese classics, and Chinese sources.

Some famous plays

The following categorization is that of the Kanze school.
Name Kanji Meaning Category
Aoi no Ue 葵上 Lady Aoi 4 (misc.)
Aya no Tsuzumi 綾鼓 The Damask Drum 4 (misc.)
Dōjōji 道成寺 Dōjōji 4 (misc.)
Hagoromo 羽衣 The Feather Mantle 3 (woman)
Izutsu 井筒 The Well Cradle 3 (woman)
Kagekiyo 景清 Kagekiyo 4 (misc.)
Kanawa 鉄輪 The Iron Ring/Crown 4 (misc.)
Kumasaka 熊坂 Kumasaka/The Robber 5 (demon)
Matsukaze 松風 The Wind in the Pines 3 (woman)
Nonomiya 野宮 The Shrine in the Fields 3 (woman)
Sekidera Komachi 関寺小町 Komachi at Sekidera 3 (woman)
Semimaru 蝉丸 Semimaru 4 (misc.)
Shakkyō 石橋 Stone Bridge 5 (demon)
Shōjō 猩々 The Tippling Elf 5 (demon)
Sotoba Komachi 卒都婆小町 Komachi at the Gravepost 3 (woman)
Takasago 高砂 At Takasago 1 (deity)
Tsunemasa 経政 Tsunemasa 2 (warrior)
Yorimasa 頼政 Yorimasa 2 (warrior)
Yuya 熊野 Yuya 3 (woman)

Performance elements

Noh performance combines a variety of elements into a stylistic whole, with each particular element the product of generations of refinement according to the central Buddhist, Shinto, and minimalist aspects of Noh's aesthetic principles.
The traditional Noh stage consists of a pavilion whose architectural style is derived from that of the traditional kagura stage of Shinto shrines, and is normally composed almost entirely of hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. The four pillars are named for their orientation to the prominent actions during the course of the play: the waki-bashira in the front, right corner near the waki's standing point and sitting point; the shite-bashira in the rear, left corner, next to which the shite normally performs; the fue-bashira in the rear, right corner, closest to the flute player; and the metsuke-bashira, or "looking-pillar", so called because the shite is typically faced toward the vicinity of the pillar.
The floor is polished to enable the actors to move in a gliding fashion, and beneath this floor are buried giant pots or bowl-shaped concrete structures to enhance the resonant properties of the wood floors when the actors stomp heavily on the floor. As a result, the stage is elevated approximately three feet above the ground level of the audience.
The only ornamentation on the stage is the kagami-ita, a painting of a pine-tree at the back of the stage. The two most common beliefs are that it represents either a famous pine tree of significance in Shinto at the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, or that it is a token of Noh's artistic predecessors which were often performed to a natural backdrop.
Another unique feature of the stage is the hashigakari, the narrow bridge to the right of the stage that the principal actors use to enter the stage. This would later evolve into the hanamichi in kabuki.
All stages which are solely dedicated to Noh performances also have a hook or loop in ceiling, which exists only to lift and drop the bell for the play Dōjōji. When that play is being performed in another location, the loop or hook will be added as a temporary fixture.

The garb worn by actors is typically adorned quite richly and steeped in symbolic meaning for the type of role (e.g. thunder gods will have hexagons on their clothes while serpents have triangles to convey scales). Costumes for the shite in particular are extravagant, shimmering silk brocades, but are progressively less sumptuous for the tsure, the wakizure, and the aikyōgen.
The musicians and chorus typically wear formal montsuki kimono (black and adorned with five family crests) accompanied by either hakama (a skirt-like garment) or kami-shimo, a combination of hakama and a waist-coat with exaggerated shoulders (see illustrations). Finally, the stage attendants are garbed in virtually unadorned black garments, much in the same way as stagehands in contemporary Western theater.

The masks in Noh (能面 nō-men or 面 omote, feature) all have names.
Usually only the shite, the main actor, wears a mask. However, in some cases, the tsure may also wear a mask, particularly for female roles. The Noh masks portray female or nonhuman (divine, demonic, or animal) characters. There are also Noh masks to represent youngsters or old men. On the other hand, a Noh actor who wears no mask plays a role of an adult man in his twenties, thirties, or forties. The side player, the waki, wears no mask either.
Several types of masks, in particular those for female roles, are designed so that slight adjustments in the position of the head can express a number emotions such as fear or sadness due to the variance in lighting and the angle shown towards the audience. With some of the more extravagant masks for deities and monsters, however, it is not always possible to convey emotion. Usually, however, these characters are not frequently called to change emotional expression during the course of the scene, or show emotion through larger body language.
The rarest and most valuable Noh masks are not held in museums even in Japan, but rather in the private collections of the various "heads" of Noh schools; these treasures are usually only shown to a select few and only taken out for performance on the rarest occasions. This does no substantial harm to the study and appreciation of Noh masks, as tradition has established a few hundred standard mask designs, which can further be categorized as being one of about a dozen different types.

The most commonly used prop in Noh is the fan, as it is carried by all performers regardless of role. Chorus singers and musicians may carry their fan in hand when entering the stage, or carry it tucked into the obi. In either case, the fan is usually placed at the performer's side when he or she takes position, and is often not taken up again until leaving the stage.
Several plays have characters who wield mallets, swords, and other implements. Nevertheless, during dance sequences, the fan is typically used to represent any and all hand-held props, including one such as a sword which the actor may have tucked in his sash or ready at hand nearby.
When hand props other than fans are used, they are usually introduced or retrieved by stage attendants who fulfill a similar role to stage crew in contemporary theater. Like their Western counterparts, stage attendants for Noh traditionally dress in black, but unlike in Western theater they may appear on stage during a scene, or may remain on stage during an entire performance, in both cases in plain view of the audience.
Stage properties in Noh including the boats, wells, altars, and the aforementioned bell from Dōjōji, are typically carried onto the stage before the beginning of the act in which they are needed. These props normally are only outlines to suggest actual objects, although the great bell, a perennial exception to most Noh rules for props, is designed to conceal the actor and to allow a costume change during the aikyogen interlude.

Chant and Music (Nohgaku 能楽)

Hayashi-kata (noh musicians). Left to right: taiko, ōtsuzumi (hip drum), kotsuzumi (shoulder drum), flute.
Noh theatre is accompanied by a chorus and a hayashi ensemble (Noh-bayashi 能囃子). Noh is a chanted drama, and a few commentators have dubbed it "Japanese opera." However, the singing in Noh involves a limited tonal range, with lengthy, repetitive passages in a narrow dynamic range. Clearly, melody is not at the center of Noh singing. Still, texts are poetic, relying heavily on the Japanese seven-five rhythm common to nearly all forms of Japanese poetry, with an economy of expression, and an abundance of allusion.
It is important to note that the chant is not always performed "in character"; that is, sometimes the actor will speak lines or describe events from the perspective of another character or even a disinterested narrator. Far from breaking the rhythm of the performance, this is actually in keeping with the other-worldy feel of many Noh plays, especially those characterized as mugen.
Noh hayashi ensemble consists of four musicians, also known as the "hayashi-kata". There are three drummers, which play the shime-daiko, ōtsuzumi (hip drum), and kotsuzumi (shoulder drum) respectively, and a shinobue flautist.

Jo, Ha, Kyū
Main article: Jo-ha-kyū
One of the most subtle performance elements of Noh is that of Jo-ha-kyū, which originated as the three movements of courtly gagaku. However, rather than simply dividing a whole into three parts, within Noh the concept incorporates not only the play itself, but the songs and dances within the play, and even the individual steps, motions, and sounds that actors and musicians make. Furthermore, from a higher perspective, the entire traditional Noh program of five plays also manifests this concept, with the first type play being the jo, the second, third, and fourth plays the ha (with the second play being referred to as the jo of the ha, the third as the ha of the ha, and the fourth as the kyū of the ha), and finally the fifth play the kyū. In general, the jo component is slow and evocative, and ha component or components detail transgression or the disordering of the natural way and the natural world, and the kyū resolves the element with haste or suddenness (note, however, that this only means kyū is fast in comparison with what came before it, and those unfamiliar with the concepts of Noh may not even realize the acceleration occurred).


There are about 1500 professional Noh actors in Japan today, and the art form continues to thrive. Actors begin their training as young children, traditionally at the age of three.
The five extant schools of Noh shite acting are the Kanze (観世), Hōshō (宝生), Komparu (金春), Kita (喜多), and Kongō (金剛) schools. Each school has a leading family known as the sōke, and the head of each family is entitled to create new plays or edit existing songs.
The society of Noh strictly protects the traditions passed down from their ancestors (see iemoto). However, several secret documents of the Kanze school written by Zeami, and of the Komparu school written by Komparu Zenchiku have been diffused throughout the community of scholars of Japanese theater.
Actors normally follow a strict progression through the course of their lives from roles considered the most basic to those considered the most complex or difficult; the role of Yoshitsune in Funa Benkei is one of the most prominent roles a child actor performs in Noh.
( Courtesy- Wikipedia and Personal inputs)
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