Drawing: Glenda Jackson in Marat/Sade

Glenda Jackson

The Persecution and Assasination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (whew) is a 1963 play by German writer Peter Weiss. I won’t give you the German version. Thankfully, it’s usually shortened to Marat/Sade.

Set in the historical French Charenton Asylum, it is a ‘play within a play’, where the actors are inmates. The play within the play is directed by the Marquis de Sade (the man after whom sadism is named) culminating in the assasination of Jean-Paul Marat.

The 1964 production was staged at London’s Aldwych Theatre, directed by Peter Brook. It featured the powerhouse actress Glenda Jackson in her first major role. She played Marat’s assassin Charlotte Corday as a ‘waif-like narcoleptic unable to control her behaviour’.

Writing in The Observer thirty six years later, David Edgar said, “I was 16 when I saw this and it suddenly made clear to me what theatre could do… it was the best performance I’ve ever seen”. The production ran on Broadway in 1965 and in Paris. Glenda also appeared in the 1967 film version. Glenda was nominated for a Tony Award.

She left the theatrical stage for the political boards in 1992, where she is a Labour Party MP representing Hampstead and Kilburn. She signed this sketch at the House of Commons last week.

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