The Malady of Death (La Maladie de la mort)

Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord

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Through an intricate blend of performance and live cinema, this production explores intimacy, gender, emotional paralysis, and the male and female gaze.

Playwright Alice Birch updates and inverts Marguerite Duras’s novella, turning the female protagonist into a sex worker and investigating the impact of pornography on the psyche. In a hotel room by the sea, a man waits. The woman comes at night, only ever at night, and is permitted neither to speak nor to resist. Anything he wants, she must do. The cost doesn’t matter. He wants to learn how to love, what it is to feel again.

Risk-taking auteur Katie Mitchell considers the unique way in which men and women scrutinise each other – as well as the potential for abuse of women within patriarchal structures. Affecting images, sophisticated camera techniques and courageous acting by Laetitia Dosch and Nick Fletcher come together, with the intense action unfolding both onstage and on a large screen to the words of narrator Irène Jacob.

Duration: 1 hour/no interval
Age restriction: 18+ (contains scenes of nudity and graphic sexual imagery)
Language: Performed in French with English surtitles

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Presented by the Barbican. Produced by CICT – Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. Associate co-production by Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Théâtre de la Ville – Paris and Le Théâtre de Liège. Co-produced by the Barbican, MC2: Grenoble, Edinburgh International Festival, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, Teatro di Roma – Teatro Nazionale, Teatro Stabile di Torino – Teatro Nazionale, Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione, Fondazione Teatro Metastasio – Prato and Tandem scène nationale. In collaboration with Mayhem

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‘The form and tone of [Katie] Mitchell’s work is in perfect harmony with its ideas‘
Allan Radcliffe , Times
‘Provocative and interesting‘
‘It is an unsettling watch but one that manages to embed in the mind‘
‘A shrewd reading … rejuvenates La Maladie de la mort‘


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