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Essay on Opposing Traditional Theatre Norms

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Throughout history, theatre has been critical to the artistic realm. Stories told centuries ago with lessons of nobility, morality, courage, and patriotism seem to despise the passage of time, and are still being recreated. However, not everyone has been partial to this conventional form of theatre. Antonin Artaud, in particular, loathed the theatre, and wanted to reform the way society experienced it. In this paper, I will examine Artaud’s role as a major contributor to modern theatre in his attempt to rid performance of its fake realism, as well as the bourgeoisie neoclassical ideals.
Typically, when one imagines theatre, he often envisions a stage, with three walls, and an audience. Artaud was concerned with this view, and recognized a necessity to bring about something innovative and contrasting to this conventional perception. Artaud was an actor, poet, playwright, and theoretician with a will to create material that “probes issues of abandonment, confinement, and creativity…[producing] crucial images of the resurrection of language and life” (1-Barber). In particular, he thoroughly believed that “theatre restricts itself” (108), and that it needed to “[wake] us up heart and nerves” (108). Society separates everyday life from theatre, deeming it a fictional world animated by actors at predetermined times, in a special building where actors and spectators arrange to meet, yet there is still disconnect between the two. It is precisely this division, “based on the notion of ‘spectacle’, of ‘mimesis’, of ‘imitation of life outside life’” (108) that Artaud rejected. Thus, he established the Theatre of Cruelty; a concept in which one reverts into a more primordial, raw state of mind and body, it was his attempt to rid the theatr...


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... of culture. Demanding a reduction in the restrictions brought forth by the classic works, he repudiated text, and focused solely on the primitive aspects of civilization. On the whole, Artaud’s impact on modern theatre is undeniable, and in his own words, “theatre will never be itself again” (108).


Works Cited
Barber, Stephen. Antonin Artaud Blows and Bombs. London: Faber and Faber, 1993.
Barber, Stephen. The Screaming Body. Paris: Creation Books, 1999.
Goodall, Jane. Artaud and the Gnostic Drama. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Jamieson, Lee. Antonin Artaud From Theory to Practice. London: Greenwich Exchange, 2007.
Leach, Robert. Makers of Modern Theatre An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2004.
Schumacher, Claude. Artaud on Theatre. London: Methuen Drama, 1989.
Sethi, Manohar K.. The Theatre of Cruelty. New Delhi: Commonwealth Publishers, 1993.


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