REVIEW: QUILLS Theatre in London

October 27, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS Theatre in London

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.


October 26, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS – The Stage

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

October 24, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS – N16 Magazine
‘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

REVIEW: QUILLS **** Exeunt Magazine

October 23, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS **** Exeunt Magazine

The writing’s on the wall. Photo: Venus Raven

Reviewed by Zakia Uddin

This is the first ever theatre production to be staged at the White Rabbit Cocktail Club in east London. The tiny basement venue, which seats only a handful of audience members, has chosen Doug Wright’s Quills to make its mark.

Wright’s play, originally staged in 1995, is inspired by the Marquis de Sade’s imprisonment in Charenton, the famed asylum which temporarily became home to many artists and writers. Sade is under the relatively progressive watch of the Abbe de Coulmier, whose humane treatment includes encouraging Sade to write for and read to the other prisoners. During his stay, he conducts a relationship with the seamstress Madeleine – who is also secretly desired by the Abbe.

Splitting the narrow performance area in two spaces – the Marquis’ cell and the office of Charenton’s owner, Doctor Royer-Collard – allows the director Andy McQuade to effectively establish the key relationships and parallels in the play. The Abbe (Chris Brown) and Sade (Peter Glover) have a relationship that is almost tender. This is horribly inverted at the end as they become mirror images of each other and the vacated cell becomes a site of madness.

There’s plenty of humour in McQuade’s production, which makes superb use of this intimate venue. He gives the most comic license to the Marquis’s socially hungry wife, Renee Pelagie (Lauren Kellegher) and to Royer-Collard (Stephen Connery-Brown). Kellegher is on brilliant form, trembling with indignation, and faking a heart condition supposedly brought on by her husband’s notoriety. The comedy perfectly highlights the self-interestedness and hypocrisy of the aristocrats, who lock the Marquis away for exposing the murky underside of their world.

Brown’s  sympathetic priest is a necessary foil to the other characters, but his rather underpowered performance feels out of sync with the rest of the production.  As the play builds to its horrific climax, he only seems slightly perturbed at the news that the woman he’s madly in love with has been ripped to shreds and hung up like a slaughtered cow.

The carefully modulated direction allows the production to shift easily from comedy to a serious consideration of censorship and scandal. One of the most powerful and complex scenes is the joint reading by the Abbe and Royer-Collard of Sade’s last story. While this is devoid of graphic imagery, the Abbe and Royer-Collard begin to suspect an obscene subtext for every line. Their increasingly hysterical reading is hilarious and there is a serious point to be made about what is deemed ‘pornographic’. In the end, the Marquis’s quills never had to be taken away from him, as his readers’ fevered imaginations were capable of producing far more scandalous texts.

Glover’s portly Sade strips completely naked and strides in front of the audience, relating increasingly perverse stories and eventually making his captors torture him in the manner of his fictional characters. It’s an engaging performance, though it makes him almost too likeable. The real-life Madeleine was actually 13, a fact ignored by the production (though Royer-Collard’s under-age wife, played by Julia Taylor, is a proxy for her). Sade never appears sexually threatening enough, despite Madeleine’s disgust for him. In fact, his (fictional) sexual restraint with her in Wright’s retelling redeems him at the end. This aside, Glover is a compelling presence, embodying the anti-hero appeal of Sade with his wit and cool delivery. The priest suffers the worst fate for his inability to act on his own desires: his repression proves to be the most self-destructive crime.

REVIEW: QUILLS British Theatre Guide

October 23, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS British Theatre Guide


by Doug Wright

Second Skin Theatre

White Rabbit Cocktail Club

From 17 October 2012 to 11 November 2012

Review by Howard Loxton

The notorious Marquis de Sade is confined in the Charenton Asylum for the Insane on the orders of Napoleon. Under the Abbé de Coulmier, there is a progressive and humane treatment regime in operation that allows de Sade access to pen and paper for his writing. He is churning out page upon page of lurid, pornographic fiction and the new Director, Dr Royer-Collard, is determined that this must stop.

At first, Royer-Collard orders the Abbé to deny de Sade his quills, ink and paper, but he finds other materials and instruments, in turn removed, then becoming more outlandish. In Wright’s play, ever more savage measures are inflicted on him. Quills becomes a metaphor for the operation of free speech and censorship while the Abbé’s actions begin to reveal buried sadistic pleasures and a battle with his Christian conscience.

This is a dark and disturbing tale, but Andy McQuade’s production is strong on humour and the dichotomy between the comedy and depravity, whether in de Sade’s imagined world or the mutilations of the plot serve to enhance each other.

Stephen Connery-Brown’s pompous Doctor Royer-Collard, raiding the asylum coffers to create the luxury home his young wife (Julia Taylor) requires, is carefully balanced between autocrat and figure of fun. His architect, M Prouix, is played by Dan Shelton as a lasciviously posturing incroyable and Lauren Kellegher, as de Sade’s wife, becomes a women given to melodramatic excess.

It is an approach that licences the audience to laugh, the better to wipe that laugh away as the play draws to its conclusion. The final scene, to describe which would probably elicit laughter, in performance carries its own fearful frisson. Thank goodness the worst excesses the script imagines carried out on de Sade and Madeleine, the lively young laundress he letches after (played by Nika Khitrova), are carried out offstage.

From its first moments of shadowy figures seen by moving candlelight, this is a very intimate production, played close-up in the basement below a cocktail bar. Scenes emerge suddenly from darkness and there is in-yer-face male nudity. Mike Lee’s simple setting drapes the walls with cloth providing cavities for additional and sometimes surprising entrances. There is minimal furniture and only necessary props with themes suggested by a crucifix and a skull memento mori.

Chris Brown is all gentleness as the well-meaning Abbé de Coulmier, concealing his own mounting horror at what he has done and how it has changed him behind his priestly façade. The intensity of his playing is heightened by a quiet delivery that demands intense concentration from the audience but it needs more clarity as it sometimes drops into inaudibility.

Peter Glover’s Marquis de Sade mixes flamboyant extravagance with an insinuating whisper, though his has more projection. In his nakedness, he seems more vulnerable than priapic. You can believe him when he says his erotic excesses are imaginative fantasies, not a manual for action. Indeed, he doesn’t seem capable of them: an intriguing performance that gives him a kind of innocence.

REVIEW: QUILLS ***** Stoke Newington People

October 21, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS ***** Stoke Newington People

Second Skin Theatre is back with a vengeance thanks to the Marquis de Sade

By Sophie_RT | Sunday, October 21, 2012, 15:53

Second Skin Theatre returns to Stoke Newington after almost a year away, in which they took their first Stokey show, La Chunga, to the West End. This time they’re back with something even rawer, and – dare I say it? – even more devilishly delicious, just in time for Halloween.

An ‘intimate’ theatre in more ways than one, director Andy McQuade and his team have transformed the basement of White Rabbit Cocktail Club (formerly Baby Bathhouse) into a space in which the audience are nose-to-nose with the actors, for a thrilling sense of voyeurism that suits the play down to a T. Quills relives the tale of the Marquis de Sade’s incarceration in Charenton’s mental institute in the early 19th Century. His love of writing, eroticism and violence come together to cause problems for the authorities and his eccentric wife; and questions of mental illness, freedom of speech and human nature are played out on stage in this comic tragedy.

Lust, love, religion and authority are tangled in an honest, shocking and often hilarious portrayal of a world on the edge of meltdown. As the play progresses the characters – from the hardened asylum manager, through the devout priest, to the Marquis himself – all end up as shackled as each other, with each man struggling against his own subservience. Quills asks questions about a writer’s responsibility for a reader’s reaction, which feels particularly important following the recent debate around controversial publications by Nick Griffin and Charlie Hebdo.

The play runs for another three weeks, and has already attracted the attention of West End venues, so it may be joining La Chunga as a Stokey export. For those of you looking for something to do over Halloween that doesn’t involve trick or treating and/or dressing up as a pumpkin, then get yourself down to the dark depths of Church Street for a more adult way to prepare for witching hour.

Five stars.

REVIEW : QUILLS ***** RemoteGoat

October 21, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on REVIEW : QUILLS ***** RemoteGoat

“Feathers Flying in the Cockpit”

by Chris Bearne for remotegoat on 20/10/12

Second Skin, in their atmospheric new venue, excel even their own uncompromising, high-stakes, intensified-reality brand of theatre. Quills is a knockout. I was amazed to learn how little this play has been performed. I’ve not seen the screen version, so this is speak as you find. And I found a feast. Is it an “astuce”, to lure a handful of willing customers into a dark basement, with the foreknowledge that the last days of the Marquis de Sade in the madhouse at Charenton can’t possibly turn out well? No, it’s more a matter of setting the theatrical bar very high – clear it and you’re flying, fail and the turkey lies flapping on the floor. Not this one.

This play demands and receives a very heightened style of acting, meticulously observed, rehearsed and directed by Andy McQuade, and produced to maximum effect by Jessica Ruano (extraordinary things, technical and atmospheric, are achieved in their diminutive black box).

I need to go chronologically, here : it was the sheer drive, belief and intensity of the first scene, between the Divine Marquis’ long-suffering and utterly driven wife Renee Pelagie, delightingly played with riveting, manic brio by Lauren Kellegher, and the new-broom Director of the Asylum, Dr Royer-Collard (Stephen Connery-Brown, with the glittering, sweaty certitude of a rapacious Balkan warlord) that really took us by the throat with appal and delight. This was to be a battle of words, a battle with words. Doug Wright’s script shares with the works of his protagonist the sheer ebullience of what you can do with words. Joyous : words relished, polished, masticated and ejaculated. And funny. Words, above all that are the lifeblood of the Marquis and his eventual undoing. But that was still to come. New characters came charged with life (Madeleine, Nika Khitrova, brave, beautiful, joie-de-vivre in the hell-hole), with pious conviction (Abbe de Coulmier, Chris Brown, saintly, questioning and doomed by religious logic) and impelled by the burning need to prevail…

… Over him, the monster, the scatalogue and his obscene imaginings. After the effusions of the others, Peter Glover’s unveiling of The Marquis, gross but suave, honey-and-ordure tongued, was compellingly sotto voce, measured and subtle. This left him everywhere to go in what came after (no spoilers), and everywhere he duly went, intrepidly exploring the limits of our outrage and of our compassion. A protean performance.

Event Venues & Times
Showing until 11/11/12 The White Rabbit Theatre | The White Rabbit Cocktail Bar, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 OLU

Quills: Dan Shelton

October 11, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on Quills: Dan Shelton


Dan Shelton emerged from a box in 2003 at Tate Britain and won the Creative Minorities award for art. Dan danced with High Spin Dance company and toured in the company production Electric Bouquet. Dan graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama in 2007 with an MA in screen acting. He played the role of ‘The Mariner’ in an adaptation of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner at Hoxton Hall with Lotos Collective, worked with Julia Bardsley on her project Meta family, played in the horror film ‘Seasoning house’, toured with the Olympic torch, and worked in ‘These Associations’ at the Tate Modern. Dan continues to explore his twin passions psychological analysis and vintage motorcycles.

What is your role in the production?

Monsieur Prouix. He is a lyrical conquistador, a fastidious and calculating artisan with a deep love and desire for the finest things in life, mixing business with pleasure in acquiring and manipulating beautiful things and enjoying money and other vices; sarcastic, fashionista, and professional dandy.

How did you first get involved in theatre? 

When I was a toddler my mother used to take me to see street theatre in Brighton and I used to watch Stomp and other such acts in there early days performing on the streets of Brighton. The company that most inspired me was Ziz Ziz Kaboom a double act that mixed clowning with circus dance and story telling. Mim who was ‘Mimmosa’ is now an friend of mine and still dancing her daughter also a friend is a burlesque circus performer and they together with Voodoo Vaudeville became my first experience of performing in alternative theatre.

What was your first impression of ‘Quills’?

Delicious, scandalous and totally fascinating…

Quills: Lauren Kellegher

October 3, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on Quills: Lauren Kellegher
Lauren Kellegher is a Newcastle born, London based actor who recently graduated from the Central School of Speech and Drama with a BA Hons Acting Degree. Since graduating Lauren has completed three feature films, as well as completing the lead in several short films. She also has TV, Commercial and Radio experience, most recently playing the lead alongside Julian Rhind-Tutt in the Radio Comedy series, ‘Vince Cosmos; Glam Rock Detective’. For more information please visit
What is your role in the production?

I am playing the role of Renee Pelagie, the wife of the infamous Marquis de Sade. She is a very dramatic and flamboyant character – an absolute joy to play!

How do you feel about getting involved with the company?

This is my first play with Second Skin Theatre and I can’t wait!

What was your first impression of ‘Quills’?

I fell in love with it straight away. The play is full of characters that actors dream of playing and I knew I had to be a part of it.

Quills – sex, satire, and sadism

October 1, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments Off on Quills – sex, satire, and sadism

Quills Second Skin Theatre

As the days shorten and the nights draw in, Second Skin Theatre is courting our darker sides with its production of Doug Wright’s wickedly satirical play

by Sarah Gill, The Hackney Citizen

Monday 1 October 2012

Stoke Newington’s White Rabbit Cocktail Club opens its doors as a theatre venue for the first time this month with Quills, a play re-imagining the last days of the Marquis de Sade told from the cold dungeons of Charenton insane asylum in 1806 France.

We follow the musings of the notorious French aristocrat, armed with nothing but his quill, as he pens tales of the grotesque, the beautiful and the erotic from the confines of his cell. Framed by the cruel repressions of France’s Reign of Terror, the play is a satirical take on personal freedom, passion and state control.

“The issue of censorship, the reason Doug Wright wrote the play originally, is one that will sadly never go away,” says the company’s co-founder and artistic director Andy McQuade. “Hopefully audiences will be in awe of the performances and the script; laugh a lot, jump a lot and leave pondering just how shaky so many of our societal foundations are, whether they purport to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or immoral.’

For a libertine that scandalised a nation with his sexual philosophies, pornographic literature and bacchanalian lifestyle, the Marquis de Sade has kept a remarkably low profile in the London theatre scene until now.

But Second Skin has made a name for itself plucking neglected plays out of the rafters and re-working them with intensely atmospheric and provocative performances in quirky theatre spaces.

“The White Rabbit is the perfect setting for our productions: dark, intimate, atmospheric, and full of little nooks and crevices and alcoves. The space inspires the way we stage our productions and sometimes even which plays we choose to produce,” says the company’s creative producer Jessica Ruano.

She says Second Skin’s audience base is swelling in Hackney, and she goes on to describe the rise of small independent theatres and the role they play in developing the local creative community:

“London’s West End is chock full of shows – but I feel like some of the most interesting theatre is found where you wouldn’t expect it: in those intimate spaces that seat only 30 or 40 people, in those obscure areas that are not always accessible by tube, from companies that you may only know through word of mouth,” she says. “Theatre on the fringe – one of London’s gems.”

Theatre-goers are encouraged to stick around for a drink to unwind with the cast and crew afterwards to talk about the experience.

“We really can’t see the point in staging Chekhov or Shakespeare,” says McQuade. “Not because we don’t love those writers but simply because: why bother when they are attended to with clockwork regularity? We believe audiences want to be provoked, have their expectations and beliefs challenged and be encouraged to invest something of themselves in a theatre show. If an audience member ever walked away from a show feeling nothing at all then I would say we’d failed.”

17 October – 11 November 2012, Wednesday to Sunday
White Rabbit Cocktail Club
125 Stoke Newington Church Street
N16 0UL

Tel: 020 3556 3350 or go to Ticket Web


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