by Laura Ferguson
Welcome to Alexander’s Sparrow’s De Sade. Performing in the Cavern Club, he transforms it into the Marquis’ Bastille cell in the year 1789 with the power of illustrative description. Upon entering this den of iniquity, my friend and I are encouraged to partake of libation from the bar before settling in our seats, being sure to “get right on up there”; the first of many euphemisms throughout the night.
He greets us with a gravelly, “Bonsoir” before pushing the boundaries of comfort in the audience. Sparrow does this cleverly by getting close to one of us in the front row, and with rising confidence, allowing the participant time to show signs of discomfort. The pauses acknowledged by the audience member and Sparrow becomes bolder as he ‘boops’ their thigh with a finger. It is silently understood that if necessary, Sparrow would back off. It creates trust between us, the audience, and the purveyor of perversion we have come to see, the Marquis de Sade. Such a grand welcome deserves grand spectacle and Sparrow delivers by appearing before us naked save for a pair of rolled-up jeans to cover his most used body part, second only to one or both of his hands, I imagine.
Sparrow’s writing for this show and the creation of this character are exceptional. The direction by Patrick Davies working to hit all the right marks, causing us to get the best impact from the narrative. The collaboration of Sparrow and Davies saw Sparrow’s transformation into de Sade as absolute and we are instantly transported into the cell with the Marquis, aware of his reputation. He is a purveyor of smut and revels in breaking taboos. He shocks and disgusts and intrigues us. It is the intrigue that keeps us. Sparrow has brought to life the man who inspired the term ‘sadism’ and this day-and-age of 50 Shades S & M normalcy, he lures us easily to his dark, hedonistic ways. His use of invective was astounding, too. The way he can put so many expletives into a sentence and still have it sound erudite making my nerdy, wordsmith-loving heart quicken.
There is a healthy aura of sex-positivity in this show,epitomized in several sexually explicit scenes. However, this is all in your mind alone; Sparrow elucidates them for us: visions of bodies melding together, discarded clothing, sensual, desirous scenarios, all artfully told. The conjured images serve their purpose, allowing a glimpse into the motivations behind de Sade’s work. The temperature rises in the room. There is shifting in our seats, a girl fans herself once or twice. I swallow to quench my suddenly dry mouth and take a slow controlled breath to calm myself. The dust motes floating in the air now seem to have their paths hindered by the thickness of pheromones we are undoubtedly giving off in large quantities. This seems a good time to mention that this show is a great date night.
Sparrow keeps us laughing throughout the show, though. He has full control over his audience and manages our reactions very well. He leaves us to linger on particular notes, feeling the tension rising further before pulling us back with a glib remark. We laugh at him and at ourselves and how easily we have been seduced. He also has a life lesson for us: do what you will now as the future is a cold and uncertain place. The show is designed for us to indulge this philosophy in a safe way and feel the empowerment it gives you.
As my friend told me after the show, “That gave me goosebumps!” I share her sentiment. De Sade is a visceral experience that will have you tingling, breathy, giddy from laughter and a new outlook on life. It plays at Cavern Club on the 24th of February, tickets are available from www.fringe.co.nz