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Print Version

NZ Fringe 2014
de Sade
Written and performed by Alexander Sparrow

at Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Wellington
From 19 Feb 2014 to 22 Feb 2014

Reviewed by Maraea Rakuraku, 20 Feb 2014

It takes balls, literally, to sit on a table naked, scratching yourself with a riding crop, while your Mum's in the audience. Well, Mum and the rest of us (which includes a questionable work-do of some kind and a woman who played cricket for a number of years – more on them/her later). We have trooped to the Cavern Club for de Sade

Having a thumping headache on arrival makes me dread the upcoming hour, though my interest is piqued by the naked guy. But that's short-lived as Alexander Sparrow dresses on stage, preparing us for a fly-on-the-wall experience of what it is to be Donatien Alphonse François, the tortured, desperate, imprisoned Marquis de Sade; French nobleman and author of a number of books that include 120 Days of Sodom, Justine or the misfortunes of Virtue and Juliette.   

To my surprise I find myself enjoying de Sade but as it progresses I don't know why it's surprising, because it's good. It's clever, layered and it sneaks up on you. There's something about Sparrow's ability to remain in character, keep up the repartee, and physically move throughout the show that maintains interest. 

I haven't seen anything quite like this before and being a Fringe show well … I mean Sparrow even makes a joke about it but seriously, with further development this could be something else. I don't even mind the history lesson, given my knowledge of de Sade is pretty thin, because it's interwoven in with audience participation, self- deprecation and a well-grounded performance.    

There's a natural engagement with the audience throughout the performance which brings many laughs, as the audience is up for it.  When some whipping is suggested, the cricket player takes to the stage (we only know this because she tells us through the most perfect of comic timing) and really gets into it. Scarily gets into it, yet it is hilarious. When his Mum (that's right, HIS MUM) takes over he doesn't seem to be hamming up the pain. Holy hika Mum. 

De Sade promises much that could probably push a bit more.  I hope so because it's a brave work, and ‘ups to you' Alexander Sparrow for maintaining all the energy despite your initial nerves which eventually settled down.
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 John Smythe


Thursday Night posted 21 Feb 2014, 10:41 AM

From its mesmerising and intriguing beginning, through its glorious set, I found this thought-provoking, funny with flashes of the sublime. It's a daring play in a fantastic venue.

It'll stay with me for some time!

Creative genius. Nothing ordinary here.