Alexander Sparrow is DE SADE

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

10/06/2014 - 14/06/2014

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

19/02/2014 - 22/02/2014

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

03/06/2016 - 03/06/2016

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

16/02/2017 - 24/02/2017

Garnet Station Café, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere, Auckland

22/06/2017 - 25/06/2017

The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North

08/07/2017 - 08/07/2017


07/10/2018 - 07/10/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Created and performed by Alexander Sparrow


A one man black comedy extravaganza about the perverted philosophical powerhouse, the Marquis de Sade!

This show throws open the cell doors of the darkest mind in history. Imprisoned for a decade without visitors, the Marquis reveals how he came to be locked up, shares the gritty details of his personal life, and teaches everyone about the joys of anarchy and complete sexual liberty.

Complete with unbelievable audience demonstrations and improvisation, audiences don’t watch Sade, they meet and speak with him . . . no other performer has ever embodied the Divine Marquis quite like this.

A one-man black comedy from the writer of A Collection of Noises.

“animated and full of energy . . . strangely entertaining”

Dominion Post

“A brave work: clever, layered, sneaks up on you”

“the show was lots of fun, and the audience participation hilarious”

“It’s theatre but with a dark comedic twist”

Venue: Cavern Club, 22 Allen Street
Date: Friday 3 June 2016
Time: 8:00pm (doors open 7:15pm)
Booking: ($25 adults, $20 concession)
door sales ($30 adults, $25 concession)

2014 information

de Sade, a tour through the depths of the darkest mind that ever existed, premieres as part of the 2014 New Zealand Fringe Festival and will be performed from 19-22 February at Fringe Bar, Allen Street. Alexander Sparrow – writer and comedian – will become the Marquis de Sade for four nights only. For everything you need to know about fetishism, sadism, and everything in between, de Sade will give you your fill on the writer of 120 Days of Sodom and Juliette.

Sparrow says, “The Marquis spent most of his life in prison, but imagine if he hadn’t. Imagine a school of sadism and rioting. This show will divide the masses – he wanted a republic, he wanted complete sexual freedom, he wanted a world that was impossible to build for the destruction it would cause.”

A comedian and writer on the Wellington circuit, Sparrow’s show is going to be a insane mix of sadistic acts, fetishism, history, and wit. “de Sade wasn’t just disgusting – he could be hilarious and cheeky too. There’s more to him than his books.”

This is an hour of chaotic ecstasy from the king of sadism himself. It’s time to tear apart society and screw in the streets. It’s time to rid ourselves of the monarchy. “It’s time, dear reader, to have a little fun.”

More about writer/performer, Alexander Sparrow:
Alexander Sparrow is a writer and comedian. He has performed in several shows in the New Zealand Fringe Festival and the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. As well as de Sade, Sparrow will perform another one man show in the 2014 Fringe called How To Pick Up Women, about the techniques of the world’s five greatest pick up artists. Alexander also has a solo show coming up in 2014’s International Comedy Festival.

Venue:  Fringe Bar
Dates:  19, 20, 21, 22 February, 2014
Time:  10:00pm
Duration:  60 mins
Prices:  Full $15 | Concession $10 | Fringe Addict $5 | Artist Card $5

Bats Theatre (Out of Site)
10-14 June 2014, 8.30pm
Full $18.00 | Concession $15.00 | Group 6+ $14.00


A one-man black comedy from the writer of The President.
“. . . bespoke, artisan comedy.” Wellington Reviews (2016)
“. . . comedic genius . . . if a door represented conservatism, Sparrow would knock politely before breaking it down.” Regional News (2016)
“Sparrow brings de Sade back to life . . . animated and full of energy . . . strangely entertaining . . .” Dominion Post (2014)
“A brave work: clever, layered, sneaks up on you” Theatreview (2014)
“. . . lots of fun, and the audience participation [was] hilarious.” Kiwiblog (2014)

Alexander Sparrow Productions has been behind multiple solo shows since 2013; including The President, ENIGMA, A Collection of Noises, and de Sade. Most of these have featured in either the NZ Fringe or NZ International Comedy Festivals.

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011
16-18 & 23-24 Feb, 2017
TICKETS: $20/$15/$14

Written and performed by Alexander Sparrow
Garnet Station, Westmere, Auckland
Thu 22 – Sat 24 June 2017, 8.30pm
Sun 25 June 2017, 6.30pm
Tickets $20 at

The Dark Room, Palmerston North
SAt 8 July 2017, 8pm


A one-man show about the perverted philosophical powerhouse, the Marquis de Sade!

The show throws open the cell doors of the darkest mind in history.  Imprisoned for a decade without visitors, the infamous sadist reveals how he came to be locked up, shares the gritty details of his personal life, and teaches the joys of anarchy.  Complete with unbelievable audience demonstrations and improvisation, you don’t watch Sade, you meet and speak with him: no other performer has embodied the Divine Marquis quite like this.

“strangely entertaining” — Dominion Post
“comedic genius” — Regional News
“hilarious” — Kiwiblog

Sunday 7th October 2018
$20 Full, $15 Concession

Theatre , Solo , Comedy ,


Hilarious and delightful debauchery

Review by Shivarn Stewart 08th Oct 2018

From the moment he makes his rather dramatic entrance – which this review won’t spoil – Alexander Sparrow is energized and entertaining as the titular Marquis De Sade.  

Detailing De Sade’s life story, philosophy and a few entertainingly graphic fantasies, this one-hour performance is full of laugh-out-loud humour, as well as some brief moments of depth and feeling. Simple lighting and props set the stage well and its structure – an intimate, confessional session within De Sade’s prison – allows Sparrow to land numerous fourth-wall-breaking quips while still in character.

Audience management is key in this performance and Sparrow’s skill in this rival his expertise as an actor and improviser. He works hard to build audience participation and is justly rewarded, though some further strictness might help keep especially unruly audience members in line. You’ll walk away learning far more than you ever thought you would about your fellow attendees, and will enjoy their brief moments of social panic.

Given the show’s extreme themes, it is also fantastic to see the subtle care being taken with consent and audience comfort zones. Sparrow manages to be brazen and outlandish while ensuring his audience are having a good time, and this approach is excellent to see.  

If dirty jokes and debauchery are your thing, De Sade will delight you. If they aren’t, then this show definitely isn’t for you. But if you’re unsure and think this just might be your cup of poison – then be brave and come down for a drink with the Marquis.


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Very inventive

Review by John C Ross 09th Jul 2017

When we’re allowed to enter and find a seat, the solo actor is seated on the arm of an armchair, with his back to us, bare-arse naked. When he does stand, and turn around, he covers his strategic bits with clutched, bunched-up trousers, which he presently dons. The front of his body is covered with strange marks, which will be explained. Fortunately, given it’s midwinter, the theatre-space is fairly warm. Still, this is bizarre already, and will get far more so.

Any solo performance requires plenty of chutzpah, yet this one demands even more since it increasingly actively involves members of the front row of the audience, whose responses are unpredictable. Hence there’s a fair bit of impro. Sparrow is very adept at drawing people in and setting up interaction, with himself and each other.

As it happens, the year is 1789 and the Marquis de Sade has been in his cell in the Bastille prison, in Paris, for the past ten years. On a little table he has copies of his books (in English), a riding crop and some cake. A bottle of wine is at hand. We are cast as upper class voyeurs, come to get a buzz from visiting him, notorious as he is for his advocacy and practice of sexual perversity and sadism. And the Paris mob, whom he calls “peasants”, are just outside and killing folk like us. At the end, he urges us to escape while we still can.

For De Sade, the purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure, by exercising extreme freedom – from morality, religion or the law – and this means exploring not just every other sexual possibility but also the extra thrills of inflicting or experiencing pain. He challenges us to at least consider this.

More one shouldn’t tell, but let’s say that the show is very inventive, builds well, and holds the audience quite effectively. Alexander Sparrow is touring it with two other solo shows, DJ Trump and Enigma, which have been reviewed locally by Adam Dodd. 


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Provides the opportunity to seriously contemplate his controversial values

Review by Nik Smythe 23rd Jun 2017

Many essays, articles, books et al have been written about the life and work of aristocrat, philosopher and revolutionary the Marquis de Sade, one of the most controversial literary figures of his, our or any time. Alexander Sparrow’s take is a curious, confronting, amusing, indulgent and analytical exhibition masquerading as a simple character study. 

Moving from the Garnet Station’s café to its tiny theatre, we can see through the open door, as we approach, the back of a naked man seated on an occasional table containing books, a bottle and a riding crop.  Torn pages are strewn throughout the auditorium, a kind of analogy for violent desecration I daresay.

Once settled we are greeted by the man – his torso covered in self-administered tally symbols to be explained in due course – with a hearty ‘Bon cois!’

French Bastille prison, 1879.  This alleged scourge of decent society – particularly his well-bred in-laws who have incarcerated him by way of a convenient legal privilege that allows people to inter family members without trial – has subsisted in here for a decade so far.  Having already written a few of his infamous works, he has invited us “fellow aristocrats, academics, perverts” to hear him deliver a message he believes to be of profound import to the future of human fulfilment. 

Spirited greeting and occasional Gallic utterance aside, Sparrow doesn’t actually speak with a French accent or, so far as I can tell, make any attempt to physically embody de Sade.  Whether this is an artistic preference or a time/budget constraint, in lieu of such affectations his aim seems rather to capture the arrogant, audacious essence of de Sade, elucidating his vices in an attempt to vindicate his position on a philosophical level; the “philosophy of truth” as he calls it.

It’s a precarious viewpoint Sparrow champions here, given de Sade, for all his free-love grandstanding, was also effectively a known sex-offender.  In his defence he asserts a righteous belief that if we can simply be honest and frank with each other about what we want, and have our desires either reciprocated or declined without judgment or expectation, the overall morale of society would improve.  At times he endeavours to lighten the mood with fairly predictable blue humour, often delivered with a kind of resigned ennui as befits a man deprived of the decadence he craves. 

While certainly confronting and in-your-face, occasionally literally, Sparrow is careful not to let his Marquis intimidate or let his debauched ideals become too overbearing, even providing safety demonstrations and disclaimers where applicable.  This is a more accessible de Sade, providing the opportunity to seriously contemplate his controversial values. 

Using newly introduced audience members as characters in his described scenarios, the fantasies grow increasingly depraved to assist in his ever-more ravenous achievement of self-pleasure, being the only kind available to him.  Inclusive demonstrations of sadism are orchestrated with an ostensible view to enlightening us to what may be present in our bodies and minds, beneath the repressive façade of modern social mores. 

This is the second time I’ve seen Sparrow in action, the first being last year’s Auckland opening of The President, which happened to fall on the night of Trump’s election.  There were very few people that night also, perhaps twice tonight’s audience of six (including the technician), thus I can declare the man is very skilled in eliciting generous, if awkward, responses in such austere environments.  What I cannot yet verify is how well his unique brand of inclusive deviance goes down in a crowd more worthy of his tenacity.

Indeed, as the Marquis implores us to take his desperate message of sharing each other honestly to the people outside he cannot reach, one can’t avoid the parallel of Alexander Sparrow earnestly hoping for a larger percentage of the local community to come and experience this uneasy consummation of his obsessional musings. 


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Well-shaped provocation

Review by Margaret Austin 17th Feb 2017

The year is 1789. We are in Paris, inside the fortress of Bastille. A naked man – his large, powerful back to us, his thick blond hair scraped back – sits amongst piles of books and torn up papers, a half drunk bottle of wine handy.

“This is not what you expected,” he informs us, finally turning to face a few scattered audience members, and dressing while he talks. “This is a cell opening.” He introduces himself as the Marquis de Sade, the revolutionary French philosopher. We learn that his family had him incarcerated without trial for sexual misbehaviour, and that he’s been in this cell for ten years.

The real Marquis de Sade may have been insane. He was certainly a far darker character than the one portrayed by Alexander Sparrow in his performance last night at the Cavern Club. But that’s what gives this show its appeal: Sparrow is attractive physically and, well, philosophically. He fully inhabits the character, moving and speaking with large gestured assurance, to the extent that the audience really doesn’t care about the historical accuracy of the portrayal.   

“Life is for the pursuit of pleasure,” he informs us. “I read, I write, I drink, I eat cake.” And where sexual behaviour is concerned: “There is no norm. There are no taboos.”

Audience participation, an intrinsic part of many Fringe shows, reaches outrageous heights – or should I say depths. Sparrow’s forays into those of us watching have startling and hilarious consequences.   

The performance is shapely. Unlike some one person shows, it avoids the trap of rambling self-disclosure or pontificating. Instead, we get a steadily building impassioned plea for personal, sexual liberty, and for honesty in relationships.

I sense the seriousness of the performer behind this performance, light-hearted as it seems. Sparrow has packaged an important message in a provocative presentation. Anyone interested in the eternal question of what constitutes true liberty should see it.   


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You can’t have your cake and direct it too

Review by Patrick Davies 04th Jun 2016

On a cold Wellington night a goodly crowd gathers in the vault of the Cavern Club to have an audience with the Marquis de Sade. This is Alexander Sparrow’s solo show which has had several outings in the Fringe and Comedy fests as well as being toured. It’s not often you are seated by the performer and in this venue Sparrow is sorting it all out himself. There’s no programme so it appears he has also written and directed this and other pieces as well: definitely a one man band.

Once ready de Sade (Sparrow) enters nude but for a roll of black jeans over his genitals and sits on the low coffee table. Pausing briefly to wonder if de Sade would also be so shy, we see that not only is his stomach covered in tally marks but his back is entitled ‘Introduction’. This mirrors the wall on which seven chapter titles appear and is the format of our ‘visit’.

We are placed – once the Marseille has finished playing and de Sade has casually scratched himself with a paddle/whip, sipped champers and feasted on cake (you get it, right?) – as the first visitors de Sade has had in many years. Already a decade in prison, for him and us it is 1789 and fellating a guard has ensured our hour with him.

He is surrounded by a 1970s style coffee table, chair, papers strewn on the floor, modern versions of his works and biographies, and inkpot and quill, so there’s a mash-up of times, and when the dreaded cellphone beeps a nod to such an unknown sound, with a twinkle in the eye. This disassociation follows through in the show itself.

While you might expect more florid words and style as you would find in his writings, this show is written more in the colloquial manner of a TED talk. Sparrow’s physicality remains modern, while every now and then he has the steps of a stately dance when making a point. It perhaps makes our communication with de Sade on a level footing and precludes keeping a distance between us.

The show ostensibly is an explanation: how he came to be incarcerated, how he came to write what he wrote and do what he did; not so much an apology as a request for us to follow in his footsteps and to claim pleasure through truth. If you see someone you want to shag you should be able to go up to that person and say it clearly, without reservation or shame. If they say yes, you both receive pleasure. If they say no, you will feel your freedom and strength from being truthful and they will receive pleasure from the compliment of being desired. No harm done. It’s a carefully built argument that is quite compelling is its logical simplicity.

As the argument is built de Sade uses audience members as examples, gaining many laughs as we contemplate the various scenarios possible to avoid boredom in the boudoir, or against the wall. Certainly a number of these stories feel like I’m eavesdropping on phone sex. We are the future, the aristocrats whose time is short, who must go out into the night and spread the word of anarchy and pleasure since this is what it is to be truly alive, rather than our current life of hiding and shame.

This is a well thought out show about an interesting man and subject, with some strong writing but on the night the show is uneven and underdone. Sparrow has a script on the coffee table to refer to when he gets lost. de Sade liberally imbibes wine and cake but this becomes a mechanism for Sparrow to either refer to the script or to think of what is next. At first it’s a character trait and quickly it becomes interruptive to the performance. Several times he appears to almost choke.

While the audience enjoy his interactions with them this unbalanced flow allows them to become unruly as his control loosens. When asked to stare into the eyes of another and later when responses are given freely Sparrow becomes almost testy with us. His pauses almost ask us to join in to keep the show going. The show runs fifteen minutes overtime and de Sade/Sparrow informs us he’ll need to keep some bits short to get to the end.

I’d like to see this show when it’s running hot, there is definitely potential for this to be a corker, but it needs an outside eye. Perhaps a case of you can’t have your cake and direct it too. 


Alexander Sparrow June 4th, 2016

Hi Patrick,

One small correction, De Sade has not yet had a season at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, or any other comedy festival (though I hope to take it to several in the future). It was last performed in 2014, where it had a season in the NZ Fringe, a repeat season at BATS Theatre, and a South Island tour. 

Thank you for attending the show and writing this review, I appreciate it. When I bring it to Wellington next, I hope you'll be able to attend again and see some of the suggested changes (such as an outside eye) implemented. 

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Little fun

Review by John Smythe 11th Jun 2014

I try to avoid coming to a show with preconceptions or, if they can’t be avoided, to set them aside so the way is clear for the work to be presented on its own terms. This can be a challenge when the focus is on an historically real and infamous person, in this case the 18th century French nobleman and sexual libertine Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, best known as the Marquis de Sade, who gave his name to sadism.

Of course the publicity is expressly designed to raise our expectations: “‘Screw in the streets, burn your law books, and tear up the town – it’s time to have a little fun’,” runs the blurb for this Bats Theatre (Out of Site) season. “You are humbly invited to visit the Divine Marquis, Lord of Fetishism, King of Sadism … and the world’s most infamous literary prisoner.”

The de Sade writer/performer Alexander Sparrow’s media release for the original season in the NZ Fringe back in February was even more expansive: “Sparrow says, ‘The Marquis spent most of his life in prison, but imagine if he hadn’t. Imagine a school of sadism and rioting. This show will divide the masses – he wanted a republic, he wanted complete sexual freedom, he wanted a world that was impossible to build for the destruction it would cause.’

“A comedian and writer on the Wellington circuit, Sparrow’s show is going to be an insane mix of sadistic acts, fetishism, history, and wit. ‘de Sade wasn’t just disgusting – he could be hilarious and cheeky too. There’s more to him than his books.’

“This is an hour of chaotic ecstasy from the king of sadism himself. It’s time to tear apart society and screw in the streets. It’s time to rid ourselves of the monarchy. ‘It’s time, dear reader, to have a little fun.’”

As we navigate the passage to the auditorium I hear a young punter say, “I have no idea what to expect,” and remind myself to park my preconceptions and abandon myself to whatever may happen.

Sparrow’s naked back is centrestage. The 1960s furniture, plastic-corked bottle of fizzy wine and modern books – collecting such titles as Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue; Juliette; The 120 Days of Sodom; and Philosophy in the Bedroompresumably (which he refers to as “tomes of putrile [sic] shit”) – alongside a quill pen and parchments on a low coffee table immediately indicate we’re in a mash-up of time and place. Fair enough too: anarchy rules.   

That we discover him naked and he dresses in black jeans emphasises the ‘modern dress’ convention. The large M and marked-off tally in charcoal that adorns his chest proves an excellent conversation-starter. Redolent of how a prisoner marks the cell wall or a castaway keeps track of the days, this tally turns out to be of something else … and we are off on the naughty stuff which he promises “will get worse”.

He is not in prison; he’s been moved to an asylum (Charenton, presumably) and the French Revolution is under way or just over (which would see him nudging 60 if we were going for historical accuracy). As a writer, however, Sparrow chooses not to dramatise or in any way explore the socio-political potential of this. He simply casts us as his visitors … and relates to us as his audience a Bats on a Tuesday night in 2014. And this being his opening night, he knows almost everyone by name.

On the acting side, Sparrow makes no attempt at characterisation. He presents as the young Kiwi man from Upper Hutt he is, not so much ‘channelling’ de Sade as referencing ideas about him, albeit in the first person. He offers none of the fluency of an educated, opinionated and passionate man; his delivery is halting and sometimes comes in fits and starts, as if to convince us he’s making it up.

His physicality is in no way suave. Much of the time he is slightly bent over as if warding off stomach cramps, dying for a piss or about to fart. Is the idea, then, to suggest that incarceration has defeated him and robbed him of his privileged sense of entitlement and confidence; of his determination to promulgate his philosophies no matter what, especially right now with an audience at his disposal?

What generates the ‘little fun’ we’ve been exhorted to have is the involvement of the audience in his chats. Asking us to participate in a simple exercise inevitably gets us laughing. Getting a friend up to whip him with a riding crop has undoubted entertainment value. And he scores extra points, when pleading with us to have opinions about our feelings and desires and to share them far and wide, by noting the presence of a critic in the audience whose job it is to do just that.

Often he is telling us that certain people, things or ideas are having a specific effect on him yet there is no sense this is actually happening to him, either emotionally or physically. I am not suggesting explicit exposure – although I do find myself contemplating the possibilities of baggy pants, perhaps with a clever device inside, that could convince us of hidden activity more effectively that tight jeans can.

Even if we take this as a Comedy Festival style show, where the comedian riffs on the philosophies and behaviours of the Marquis de Sade in a contemporary context and as himself, it has to be said there is much more potential to be exploited.

There being no programme and no mention of other creatives in the media material, I assume Sparrow is his own sole writer and director. Having a co-writer or dramaturge and a director on board to interrogate his objectives and develop the means by which he meets them would have undoubted value. Or he needs to challenge himself more, which would be harder.

As it stands … I guess it does deliver the ‘little fun’, as promised.
 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
*Austrian utopian, socialist and humanist philosopher Leopold von Sacher-Masoch gave his name to masochism about a century later. 


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A brave work: clever, layered, sneaks up on you

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 20th 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.


Thursday Night February 21st, 2014

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.

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