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Diary: S&M with Isabelle Huppert at the Southbank Centre

Isabelle Huppert. Photo: Sony Pictures Classics Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
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This month brought the fearless and – as some interviewers have found – fearsome French actor Isabelle Huppert back to the UK stage.

It was a delight to have the Oscar-nominated star back on our shores – she last appeared two years ago, at the Barbican; before that it had been two decades.

Sadly fans of La Huppert had to content themselves with just one night, as she came to the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to read two stories by Marquis de Sade: Justine and Juliette. And what they got was pretty eye-popping.

Her performance, according to Guardian scribe Michael Billington was “vigorous” and a “pleasure” to watch. But the subject-matter was, well, what anyone with a passing knowledge of Sade might expect.

One audience member told Tabard, who sadly was unavailable on the night, that the reading was “full on”. For those unaware, the texts apparently covered violent group sex, rape, orgiastic fantasies, machines, death, murder, violent porn… all described in grotesque detail.

Apparently it did even lead to a few members of the audience walking out, though as one patron said: “I did wonder what they thought they were buying tickets for.”

This may say something about the Brits, as Huppert told The Stage before the show that audiences in France had “responded really well”.

Perhaps more surprising she added: “I’m not reading the worst pages of Sade. It is already harsh enough, I don’t go too far.”

Sacre bleu, the well-heeled patrons of the Southbank Centre may beg to differ…

Send stories to tabard@thestage.co.uk

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