Posts Tagged ‘quills’

REVIEW – QUILLS Hackney Citizen

By on November 9, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , | Comments Off on REVIEW – QUILLS Hackney Citizen

Second Skin’s rendition of the last days of the Marquis de Sade is a compelling and credible portrayal

Sarah Gill
Friday 9 November 2012

Pressed nose to nape in the hot dark belly of the White Rabbit Cocktail Club, the soft cushions, dark staging and pornographic hangings are a perfect lair for Second Skin’s rendition of Doug Wright’s Quills.

The play re-imagines the last days of the Marquis de Sade from the dungeons of Charenton insane asylum. The only outlet for de Sade’s dark imagination whilst  imprisoned for his wicked behaviour and sinful tastes was in inking violent erotic stories and smuggling them out to the salivating masses.

Framed by the cruel repressions of France’s Reign of Terror, with heads “popping like champagne corks” in Paris, the play is a satirical take on personal freedom, passion and state control.

Grunting and preening, the Marquis should be the villain of the piece and yet he becomes a pathetic kind of hero. He is as much a victim of the greed of Doctor Royer Collard and his own wife, plotting to silence his writing, as the suppressed sadistic desires of the Abbe de Coulmier, which find their resolution in his bloody, but inevitable, end.

“Conversation, like other [portions of the anatomy],[runs more smoothly when] lubricated,” purrs Peter Glover’s brilliant Marquis, puckering a Cupid’s bow mouth and rearranging his bulging silk bathrobe. “Come and sit on my knee, so you don’t miss a word.”

Andy McQuade’s production is eloquent, funny and, ultimately, disturbing. The script is sharp and playful, and the cast deliver it with uniformly well-controlled timing and a lightness of touch that belie the demands of the piece. Glover is excellent – initially flouncing in powdered wig and flirting with maids; and later crawling on the floor, nude, and scrawling the walls with his own excrement.

He is a wonderful storyteller, “chaperoning us through the dark waters of the soul”, with snapshots of his lustful horror stories, while his captors try to stifle him with increasingly barbaric methods. We are often uncertain whether to laugh or shudder; whether we sit in judgement or are ourselves prurient spectators, craning for a glimpse of naked flesh.

Lauren Kellegher as de Sade’s hysterical wife is also a pleasure, bribing the doctor to silence her husband so that she can be received into polite society’s garden parties once more. Her lines swell to fill the recesses of the room without toppling into farce. Initially self-conscious, Chris Brown’s Abbe grows into the role, and his descent from light-hearted liberal churchman to the architect of the Marquis’s torture is as well handled as his anguish when he recognises the hypocrisy of his actions.

“I did not forge the mind of man, filling it with rancour and blood lust,” taunts the Marquis, confronted with the death of the maid Madeleine after a prisoner re-enacted one of his stories. “Don’t hate me because I turned the key.”

Till 11 November 2012, Wednesday to Sunday
White Rabbit Cocktail Club
125 Stoke Newington Church Street
N16 0UH

REVIEW: QUILLS **** The Public Reviews

By on October 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS **** The Public Reviews

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: , , , | Comments Off on REVIEW: QUILLS The Flaneur Art Blog

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 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

Quills: Stephen Connery-Brown

By on September 27, 2012 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Quills: Stephen Connery-Brown

Stephen Connery-Brown
trained at East 15 Acting School. With Second Skin Theatre, Stephen played Josefino in “La Chunga” and the Preacher in “Poe: Macabre Resurrections”. Recent stage appearances include “4.48 Psychosis” at the Drayton Theatre, The Man in Catalan playwright Josep M. Benet i Jornet’s UK premiere of “Desig (Desire)” at the White Bear Theatre, and Sir Peter Teazle in Jessica Swale’s production of “A School for Scandal”, and Shylock in a tour of “The Merchant of Venice” for Clockhouse Theatre Company. Other work includes theatre-in-education, corporate videos, commercials, short films and radio.

What is your role in ‘Quills’?
Doctor Royer-Collard.  He is the chief physician at the Charenton Asylum – a smart and very ambitious man, whose authority is severely tested by the Marquis de Sade’s subversive exploits. My approach to the character is to discover the humanity and compassion in him, and use that as a counterpoint against his sometimes cruel and duplicitous actions.

How did you first get involved in theatre?
One of my first jobs was as the sound operator for the pantomime “Aladdin”, and also playing the voice of the Genie of the Ring. Much to the director’s consternation I decided to do the voice using my Paul Lynde impersonation. 
What was your first impression of ‘Quills’?
A rollicking good story. I wanted to get to the end to see what happened to all the characters.

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