7 terms

Antonin Artaud - Theatre of Cruelty

He viewed the world as desperate, sick and mad and believed it was in desperate need of change. Artaud's pessimistic view of the world as being full of lies, aimlessness, meaningless and hypocrisy is based on the philosophy of Existentialism. Existentialist's believe that human life is absolute meaningless, random and pointless. They think humans are machines that share no special purpose. The argument is that we are born with nothing, and die with nothing. Artaud saw a direct connection between…
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Visual Poetry
Artaud believed that movement, gestures and dance were more effective to communicate with an audience than words. His 'visual poetry' communicated feelings about human mysteries such as creation, growth and death in ways that words could not. He didn't want to eliminate words altogether, however just use them when totally necessary and important.
Assaulting the Senses
He wanted the theatre of cruelty to hypnotise the audience, putting them into a trance like state, in which they could be shocked into confronting themselves, their way of life, and the meaning of all existence. He would 'assault the senses' using lights, music and sound.
Creating a dream world
Through the use of masks, objects and costumes, Artaud hoped to remove his audience from their everyday lives. He wanted no scenery in his theatre, just symbolic objects strangely distorted into nightmare and dreamlike shapes. Combined with the use of movement, lights and music these would affect the audience in ways dream would, working directly on the emotions and unconscious mind.
Involving the audience
In Artaud's theatre the audience would be placed in the centre with the action taking place all around them. The audience would feel part of everything that happened.
The skill of the actor
Artaud insisted that actors should be highly trained, and be able to use their voices and bodies with great skill. Unlike Brecht, he believed that all actors should be emotionally involved in their work and convinced of its truth.
Deliberate cruelty
His style of theatre was an attack on emotions and designed to shock the audience and totally involve them in the drama. He used violent and terrifying actions and images to change the way people perceived their world.
Improvising the play
There were no scripts in the theatre of cruelty. Artaud planned to improvise, basing the process on important events, serious human concerns or important themes taken from existing plays. An example he gave was an improvisation based on the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish om the sixteenth century. Artaud said he would use this to demonstrate the horror of the exterminnation of one race by another, and to make people feel how destructive religion can be when it is used for the wrong reasons.
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