Archive for October, 2012

REVIEW: QUILLS **** The Public Reviews

By on October 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

Reviewer: Steven Barfield

This new production of Quills, an Obie award-winning American play from 1995 that was later adapted into a successful film (2000), shows Second Skin Theatre on fine form: the production will not disappoint anyone who believes theatre should be vital, challenging and visceral. The theatre company’s new permanent home is in the basement of the White Rabbit in Stoke Newington and this is the strangely enough, the London premiere of this critically well regarded play as well as the first play in the company’s new home. Andy McQuade, the director, is a Fringe Report award-winning fringe director, as well as artistic director of Second Skin Theatre.

It is a performance with much fine (and in certain cases brave) acting, as well as astute direction; the small basement space of the cocktail bar ( you can buy a special Marquis de Sade cocktail upstairs, if you are feeling brave), is so intimate that the audience will have no choice but to listen to the debate in what is above all an uncompromising, rigorous play of idea embedded in some remarkable characters that is fiercely relevant to today. It is a play and production that is as outrageous and thought-provoking as much as it often riotously funny and sometimes tragic. It should be noted that the play isn’t intended to be historically accurate and the horrible death of the Marquis on stage was not what happened to him in real life.

France 1806 and the Marquis De Sade has been confined to the asylum of Charenton, run by the Enlightenment figure of the Abbé du Coulmier who believes in a therapeutic rather than punitive regime. But against the hospital’s rules, de Sade is secretly smuggling out his stories created during his writing therapy to a scandalised, but greedy public, via a seamstress and laundress Madeleine “Maddy” . There is a battle of wills between the Abbé and more traditional Dr. Royer-Collard, a medical practitioner, who is an upwardly mobile bourgeois, building his own chateau, complete with a young and bored wife. Dr. Royer-Collard has little time or inclination for humane treatment of inmates, especially of the Marquis he judges an evil rebel against the social order he represents. There is a second battle of wills between the establishment who wish to stop him and the Marquis, who is desperately determined to write, even though it will lead to his physical destruction: in ink, in wine, even in blood. The situation will have an unhappy ending for almost everyone and without giving the jagged plot twists away, by the end we’ll see some abrupt changes of character as hidden aspects are revealed as well as the astonishing ebb and then flow of the enterprising Marquis’ fortunes as fiction writer.

Peter Glover makes for a fantastically exuberant de Sade; at turns lascivious, provocative and vulnerable, in what is something of a tour de force of acting that goes from high camp to pathos. He spends part of the play completely naked and in this case he is brave. Chris Brown as the Abbé is a sensitive and humane soul, gently spiritual, but Brown gives full weight to his transformation into a kind of monster due to the taunting gambits and refusal to abjure from writing of the Marquis. The relationship between De Sade and the Abbé is almost a love affair of sorts, a ritual where De Sade tempts him and produces some powerful sorties. Stephen Connery-Brown’s Royer-Collard is a splendid example of humbug, selfishness, hypocrisy and social climbing while Lauren Kellegher’s Renee Pelagie, the wife of the Marquis is an equally funny lampoon of a woman who sees her marriage to her notorious husband as something to be traded on the stock exchange of social gossip. Nika Khitrova’s Madeleine manages to show a young and impoverished woman caught between profanity and virtue, recognising that the Marquis is much like the Gothic villains in the fictions she loves.

The production is balanced between Grand-Guignol style horror and the humanity and vulnerability of the characters and is thus a beguiling one, although its important to say that what makes this play so provocative is the way our sympathies change as the play progresses: we become closer to the unfortunate, if in many ways utterly repellent Marquis due to the transformation of the supposedly good and morally virtuous characters. But it is also a debate that is far from concluded about censorship and its limits and the way mainstream society demonises those it sees as potentially dangerous, even if such danger lies only in their imagination; should we censor or do we run the risk of merely refusing the deeply buried secrets in societies own unconscious?

Runs until 11th November

REVIEW: QUILLS The Flaneur Art Blog

By on October 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments

A quill as a weapon

by ALESSANDRA CIANETTI on Oct 29, 2012 • 12:15 am

1806. Insane asylum. Charenton. France. The Marquis de Sade, sentenced to life, starts recording thoughts and philosophies that have scandalised the whole nation.

2012. New theatre venue at the White Rabbit Cocktail Club. London. UK. Second Skin Theatre’s fifth season opens with Doug Wright’s Obie-award winning play Quills , a re-imagining of the Marquis de Sade’s incarceration at Charenton’s insane asylum.

What is the role of censorship? Can a quill became a weapon? What weapons do institutions have to use to restore morality?

In Quills, the Marquis de Sade is the centre of a discussion about the meaning of freedom, the freedom of challenging the current morality and pushing the boundaries of the current hypocrisy. He appears as a fresh character that has no limits to his creativity. When he sees his right to write with ink and paper negated, he starts to use bed sheets and wine and when also this becomes too scary for the institutions, he uses the only source of writing possible without tools: his blood. An endless stream of words that digs into the hidden needs of human beings, the secret sexual desires that we do not have access to in our conscious life. He does it without fear. He writes everything, demonstrating the power of words and the effort society makes to silence scary and untold truths.

Spectators are attracted by the strength of the Marquis’s character, willing to carry on with his art in order to show that the consequences of art are not art’s fault but a result of human nature. We are carried with him in a fight against the conventions of political institutions, Church and society, represented also by his comical wife (performed brilliantly by  Lauren Kellegher) who epitomises all the opportunism of a world were every sexual desire must be restrained and locked out of sight.

Horrified and amused by Quills, spectators follow the attempts of different characters to ‘save’ both the status quo and the Marquis. The attempts at rescuing him from his madness (the madness of the arts?) will only end up transforming the written cruelty into real tortures.

Until November 11, 2012

White Rabbit Cocktail Club in Stoke Newington



By on October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments
Review by Alain English on 27th October 2012
After their West End debut with Mario Vargas Llosa’s “La Chunga” last year, Second Skin Theatre raise the bar up another level with this production Doug Wright’s “Quills”.  There will be some in the audience familiar with the movie of the same name starring Kate Winslet and Geoffrey Rush.  Indeed, one suspects that the titular character in the play, the Marquis de Sade who delights in tales of obscenity, sex and violence would have thrived in the modern world.  Hell, he might even be writing for the tabloids covering the Jimmy Saville case, a story that would have suited him perfectly.  So in this respect the production is well-timed.
The play relates the incarceration of the Marquis de Sade in a French lunatic asylum, and the effects his salacious writings and defiantly rebellious attitude have on his supposed reformers.
Bravely standing in for his leading man Peter Glover, director Andy McQuade assumes the role of the Marquis.  He brings a really physical arch humour to the role, embracing the character’s innuendoes with a relish that made me think of the Joker from Batman.  His supporting cast ranging from Nika Khitrova as tragic maid Madeleine and Chris Brown as the doomed Abbe de Coulmier all fit into the macabre grotesque atmosphere of the piece.
Mike Lee’s splendid set, laid out out lengthways on the basement of the White Rabbit Club, gives a perfect stinking sordid backdrop to the actors that really involves the audience – this is as intimate as theatre really gets.
Running to the 11th November, “Quills” is a perfect winter treat. Recommended.


By on October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

Review by Laura Muldoon (freelance writer for DIVA Magazine)

Let down at the last minute by my theatre friend, I descended alone into the spooky basement at the White Rabbit in Stoke Newington to take in the brand new production of Quills by the Second Skin Theatre Company under the direction of Andy McQuade. The painted black brickwork glistened as I made my way down the narrow staircase into the dimly lit dungeon venue where the play was to be performed. The atmosphere created by this gothic, prison-like setting was excitingly immersive and perfectly timed with the play opening so close to Halloween. The set was beautifully laced with crucifixes and skulls, an excellent reflection of the plays grisly trajectory. Thoughts ran through my mind of being locked down here alone, a frightening prospect. I looked over to see a fellow reviewer being harangued by obvious Second Skin enthusiast and stealthily let myself be swallowed by the darkness as I fumbled with a delicious glass of merlot which sloshed over my notes.

Quills is set in Charenton, a lunatic asylum and a modern day nightmare, managed by the newly appointed Dr Royer Collard (Stephen Connery Brown), whose main motivation is keeping his highly-sexed wife distracted with a luxurious new mansion. It is here where the Marquis de Sade (Peter Glover) has been imprisoned after one too many masochistic indiscretions much to the embarrassment of his highly strung wife, Renee (Lauren Kelleger). Renee is willing to pay handsomely, through donations to the asylum, to have her husband imprisoned indefinitely in order for her to be free to regain her reputation amongst French high society, so a mutually rewarding agreement is soon met. Kelleger provides a truly comedic performance which provides lots of laughs, but is also unpinned with a deep sadness as she has become resigned to a life where she no longer remembers how it feels to walk down a street without suffering insult, which echoed to me the life of people who have been involuntarily flung into the sycophantic media limelight in Britain today.

Dr Collard’s counterpart at the asylum is the Abbe de Coulmier (Chris Brown) who cuts a staid and sensible figure in the face of the spirited and decadent Collard. The Marquis bursts onto the stage, a man beyond redemption, with a white painted face and a lasciviously, devilish grin pasted onto his face 90% of the time. A camp, larger than life figure, the fluidity of his sexuality was demonstrated by his outward appearance. He constantly made advances at most people but was particularly enthralled by Madeleine (Nika Khitrova) an innocent seamstress, dressed in virginal white who works at the asylum and the sexuality oozes off of everything he touches and says. It made my stomach flip, sometimes with revulsion, when I heard the stories of depravity which he narrates and simultaneously with excitement of the illicit and forbidden. The Marquis is gradually stripped of all that he holds dear, his wine, his home comforts and finally his writing tools. After recently listening to a radio programme about a woman who was compelled to swallow knives for fear that she ironically might die if she did not, I saw that same insane desperation in the Marquis and it was quite obvious that he or others will die if he cannot write. This was acutely apparent through the intensely dark performance from Peter Glover.

The Marquis’s plight raises a lot of thought-provoking questions for the audience which are very current, for instance, is a writer responsible for actions of their readers? The Marquis is eventually quelled from writing forever as the play concludes and I don’t think I would have been the only one feeling like that was a shame despite some of the consequences of his writing were truly horrific. The Abbe, played by Chris Brown is like a rock through the play until he too begins to crumble when his moral compass becomes skewed. At the beginning of the play I felt that Brown was a little wooden and quiet but by the end, his meticulous thinking and quiet sensibility is somewhat soothing. What I thought at the beginning as a negative, was now a positive which is indicative of this whole production. By the end no one is the same as who they thought they were at the start.

REVIEW: QUILLS – UK Theatre Network

By on October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | No Comments

Quills by Second Skin Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 28th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

If they can be dreamt, they can be done.
Second Skin Theatre’s fifth season opens with Doug Wright’s Obie-award winning play Quills, a re-imagining of the Marquis de Sade’s incarceration at Charenton’s insane asylum. This production marks the launch of London’s newest and most intimate theatre venue in Stoke Newington – the White Rabbit Cocktail Club.

After catching the spirit of Llosa’s wonderful play La Chunga so perfectly that the author himself endorsed the production and an intriguing take on Edgar Allen Poe at St. Mary’s church, director Andy McQuade now explores the issues of censorship and the nature of evil in this fascinating and sardonically witty production. After the leading actor had fallen ill, Andy McQuade took over the role of the Marquis de Sade and very successfully so.

A new director has arrived at the mental hospital of Charenton. Dr Royer-Collard is not satisfied with the work of his predecessor. He is looking for a more stringent atmosphere – a return to shackles, thumb screws and pillories to keep the patients tranquil. Abbé de Coulmier, who is personally responsible for the Marquis de Sade, is absolutely opposed to the new regimen: “How can inhumane treatment produce a civilized demeanour?” The director insists. Pressurized by de Sade’s outraged wife Renée Palagie, who finds herself a social outcast because of her infamous husband, Royer-Collard won’t tolerate any more creative output by de Sade. A new manuscript has been found! Despite the Abbé’s utmost dedication to reforming the misfit, he cannot stop de Sade’s creative flow. Finally, the Abbé gives in to Royer-Collard’s pressure and takes away de Sade’s quills and paper. Yet the Marquis is very ingenious indeed.

Doug Wright’s play identifies hypocrisy and evil in man. De Sade writes torture pornography to get his hands on the attractive Madeleine. Although everybody condemns his writings, he has a gigantic following. There is a thirst for his erotic stories that de Sade is more than willing to quench. Director Royer-Collard sees himself as a benefactor to humanity but has an ostentatious chateau built by the sycophantic architect Prouix. The good-natured Abbé de Coulmier, so opposed to cruelty and violence, detects that he, too, is fallible. The humour of this challenging play is very dark indeed as we find ourselves rooting for the sardonic and witty Marquis de Sade and pitying the well-meaning Abbé.

Andy McQuade inhabits his role completely as he struts across the stage and exclaims: “In conditions of adversity the artist thrives.” Remorseless and undefeated to the very end, he successfully defies censorship while lusting after the attractive Madeleine. Chris Brown conveys the doubts and uncertainties of the Abbé who eventually opens the gates of hell. Stephen Connery-Brown is very good as the new director of Charenton as he falls under the spell of de Sade’s wife Renée Pelagie, a comic tour-de-force by Lauren Kellegher. Nika Khitrova convinces as the laundry maid Madeleine, who gladly succumbs to the Marquis’ charms as long as he provides her with new stories.

I thought I discovered traces of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed in the play which might or might not be a coincidence. Be that as it may, this is a very challenging piece – highly entertaining because of its ironic humour but also dark and disturbing. I enjoyed every minute of it.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 11 November 2012

White Rabbit Cocktail Club, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH

Andy McQuade as the Marquis de Sade

By on October 28, 2012 | Category: Blog | No Comments

Photo credit: Venus Raven

REVIEW: QUILLS Everything Deserves a Review

By on October 27, 2012 | Category: Blog | No Comments

Duncan Stevens has written several reviews of plays produced by Second Skin Theatre. Or to be exact, he has hosted reviews written by a collection of unusual characters. This time, for Quills, a deceased horse makes an appearance… 

REVIEW: QUILLS Theatre in London

By on October 27, 2012 | Category: Blog | No Comments

Being a person who has always recognized the talent and mastery of the marquis, although not what I would call “a fan” I could not let the opportunity of going to see this play, Quills, and I must say, I am blown away by every aspect of the play.

The play, written by Doug Wright and directed by Andy McQuade depicts the last weeks of the Marquis de Sade’s life. Imprisoned in the Charenton asylum for the insane. His wife, Renee Pelagie (played by Lauren Kellegher) pleas to the director of the asylum, Doctor Royer-Collard (Stephen Connery-Brown) to stop her husband’s writing. The doctor finds a river of letters, manuscripts and general inkflow that traces back to the Marquis cell. In there, a far from distressed Marquis (Peter Glover) is at the peak of his creativity and far from finished. His love interest and passionate reader, Madeleine LeCLerc (Nika Khitrova), helps him deliver his writing to reach his audience. It is not long until the doctor calls in the person who is attending the marquis mental health to assess the issue, the priest Abbe de Coulmier (Chris Brown).

It is not often that I get so impressed by a production this size, which in my opinion it belongs to a stage in the west end for a longer run. The acting is magnificent as I cannot think of any part that wasn’t played by somebody who enjoyed his or her role thoroughly.

As I recognise exquisite debauchery in the script, quills writes itself as the play goes on, not feeling like a play per se but mostly a collection of circumstances that almost trample each other
in order to be acknowledged by the audience due to their intensity. There, almost as if written by the Marquis himself, we face humorous notes where the macabre cannot hold its laughter shut and a guilty smile sneaks up to the audiences visage. The pain, the tragedy, the perverse and the insane look at us as if the reflection in a mirror that we refuse to believe.

And towards the end we lose sight of the Marquis, slipping away in the lines of the text and in the shades of the stage, taken away by death. He who knew no guilt nor he knew about evil. He who saw man not as a child of god but as a fatherless creature.

And condemned he was for telling the truth, and punished and disposed of, as if death would be a cheaper alternative to turning one’s face to that laughable reflection of what we are.

So who killed the marquis if not his biggest so called sin? shouldn’t we voice the word “Pride” when the beast was killed in such a gruesome way? was it his destiny to die to make a point for humanity? “So the bible and the marquis work should sit together in every home, and let man decide which portrays best what human nature is”.

What an excellent reflection of another character in history, so to speak. Both killed and then lamented.


By on October 26, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments

Published Thursday 25 October 2012 at 13:30 by Jonathan Watson

It’s safe to say Andy McQuade now reigns as Stoke Newington’s resident theatrical sadomasochist.

First, the founder of Second Skin Theatre tested a landlord’s nerve with Mario Vargas Llosa’s louche La Chunga on Church Street and was booted out of the venue for doing so. Then, he moved down the road to the rectory of one of the oldest churches in London and challenged us to freakishly erotic adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe. But now, with Doug Wright’s Quills, he goes even further – by stepping in for his lead who is in hospital, by literally baring all for his craft, and for putting another new north London venue on the map with a gruesome slap in the face. And boy, can he act.

The play itself is perfect fodder for McQuade and his delightfully unwholesome cast. The Marquis de Sade (McQuade) is interned at an asylum in Charenton, where he spends his time dreaming up depraved stories about anyone and anything around him, not least the gorgeous laundry maid Madeleine (Nika Khitrova). Meanwhile, the Marquis’ wife Renee (Lauren Kelleger) – a gesticulating social peacock – is at pains to shut him up to improve her standing. To do that, she enlists the asylum’s crafty Dr Ollard (Stephen Connery Brown) who in turn enlists the institution’s priest, the Abbe de Coulmier (Chris Brown). The Abbe urges the Marquis to take a virtuous path, but of course the Marquis has something unwholesome up his sleeve (or in his trousers). And it doesn’t end well.

This is an extraordinary performance – it’s soaked in innuendo, the ensemble plays beautifully to the details of the devil and the atmosphere swells with joy at every lewd gesture.

The Marquis once wrote that “Lust’s passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes”, and I reckon if he spent an evening with McQuade and co, he wouldn’t be disappointed. In fact, he’d probably join in.

Production information

White Rabbit Cocktail Bar, London, October 17-November 11

Author: Doug Wright
Director: Andy McQuade
Producers: Second Skin Theatre, Jessica Ruano
Cast: Chris Brown, Stephen Connery-Brown, Lauren Kellegher, Nika Khitrova, Dan Shelton, Julia Taylor, Andy McQuade
Running time: 2hrs 10mins

REVIEW: QUILLS – N16 Magazine

By on October 24, 2012 | Category: Blog | No Comments
‘Quills’ presented by Second Skin Theatre Co downstairs at The White Rabbit Cocktail Club

Second Skin are steadily consolidating their position as N16’s resident theatre company.  Andy McQuade was awarded ‘Best Theatre Director 2012’ by Fringe Report for his production of ‘La Chunga’ which played at Ryans Bar, before making a West End transfer. Here in the basement of White Rabbit, McQuade excels with ‘Quills’ in a venue that seems to accommodate his approach to drama perfectly.

Author Doug Wright takes the incarcerated Marquis de Sade as his protagonist, or rather the Marquis’ penned words and their power to offend, delight, provoke and incite. In a script rich with imagery, both the compulsion to write and the notion of a powerful mind controlling others, are played out in a gripping and humorous production. The strong text is nimbly dramatised by an impressive cast, with atmospheric set and stylish costume design. In the intimate cellar space, spectators and cast are drawn into a mutually shared suspension of disbelief. There is strong content within the drama yet, a restrained treatment concentrates the power of the material.

Renée Pélagie, wife of the Marquis de Sade (a spirited creation from Lauren Kelleger), will pay any amount of money to Dr Collard, head of the Charenten asylum, to silence her husband. Stephen Connery Brown plays the Doctor with a large measure of self interest and pomposity.   Dr Collard siphons funds from the asylum to accommodate his young bride in palatial surroundings; he is undone when architect M Prouix (Dan Shelton) beds the good doctor’s wife (Julia Taylor). Whilst this subplot does not quite integrate, these characters establish the morally bankrupt environment outside the doors of the asylum.

The Abbe de Coulmier is motivated by far more Christian intentions of finding humanity within the Marquis, and committed to leading him to redemption by a liberal path. Following the doctor’s orders to suppress the Marquis’ pornographic writings (which he is smuggling out of the asylum via the laundry maid Madelaine) the priest finds himself taking a different course of ever more cruel suppression in a futile quest to silence the Marquis.  Whilst the characters play out the inevitable consequences of the Abbe’s ever increasingly depraved attempts, words themselves take principality over the actions of the characters.

Peter Glover as the Marquis embodies the part with passion and a command of the grotesque. He delivers in the principal role over the two substantial acts keeping the flair and pace of his character throughout. Chris Brown as the Abbe de Coulmier subtly develops his complex embroilment into the manipulations of the Marquis in a compelling performance. As Madelaine, Nika Kitrova has a stellar quality. She combines innocence with a certain knowing ability to befriend the Marquis.

With the potential for only a small audience to gather close to the drama, McQuade achieves a most personal and engaging aura. This is an admirable production decision as the economics of theatre demand ticket sales, the creative result more than validates his decision.

Review by Bryony Hegarty

Production runs until 11 November