Asylum setting sparks on-stage political talk

Company C launches its first production of the season Oct. 22 to 25

Alexandra Willet (left) Lexy Young

Once again, expect the unexpected from the Canadian College of the Performing Arts this month.

With crazy people on stage in a play-within-a-play and the impromptu nature nurtured by the director, anything can happen during their latest production, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

Director James Fagan Tait directed Company C’s sold-out productions of Six Characters In Search of an Author last year that featured interaction with the audience. He noticed just how much students got from the interactive experience and wanted to do something like that again.

“(The Persecution and Assassination) is a fairly immersive piece, the audience is the bourgeois audience of 1808,” Tait said. “It’s done in a completely entertaining way, with music, with sexuality, with political rants … it’s fantastic. It’s very entertaining not just dry as dust. And it’s in an asylum, you never know what’s going to happen.”

The cast of 15 in Company C – third-year students at CCPA learning the business in hands-on roles – embark on a mental and political journey into the historical Charenton Asylum where they immerse audiences in a retelling of the assassination of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat.

“It was a response to where the world was at the time,” Tait said of the play written by Peter Weiss in 1963.

The main story is set in 1808, after the French Revolution; the play directed by Marquis de Sade within the story takes place during the Revolution, in mid-1793, culminating in the assassination of Marat on July 13, 1793.

“It’s very subjective, so audience members will take away something different. Each person’s experience will be different,” said Dane Smith, who plays Marat.

He cites the foreword as being indicative of the experience: “The important thing is to pull yourself up by your own hair to turn yourself inside out and see the whole world with fresh eyes – Peter Weiss.”

“He thought it was a good mirror of sorts,” Smith said. “(Tait) really wants to mirror that kind of upheaval that may be coming (with the election).”

The director promoted natural development of their characters.

“(Tait) is very hands-on and action driven … he gets us to break everything down into actions. I beg. I entreat,” said Gabriel Macdonald who plays de Sade. “He wants it to be completely organic every time we reconstruct it.”

“He wants it to come from us as individuals,” Smith agreed. “A big part of this show is … there’s an element of danger that we are crazy and the audience is exposed to that.”

The Company C members also work alongside professional set designers, light designers, music directors, stage-managers and others to learn every aspect of stagecraft.

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade runs Oct. 22 to 25 at CCPA in Oak Bay, 1701 Elgin Rd.

The company is preparing for coming productions of The Great Gatsby from Dec. 3 to 6 and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6, 2016.

For tickets and box office information contact the Canadian College of Performing Arts Box Office at 250-595-9970. Tickets are available online at ccpacanada.eventbrite.ca.