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Rehearsing artaud

Jan 16, 2015




  • 1. Rehearsing Theatre Antonin Artaud 1896-1948


  • I am well aware that a language of gestures and postures, dance and music is less able to define character. But whoever said theatre was meant to define character?


  • In Europe nobody knows how to scream anymore.


  • Actors should be like torture victims who are being burned and making signs from the stake.

5. Realism v Surrealism

  • Artauds work provides a vision that stems from his violent hatred of realism
  • He represents the other end of the performance scale from Stanislavski
  • He wanted to transcend realism in his productions and produce a theatre that challenged his audience, forcing them to see new ideas and values

6. Life and Background

  • Artaud was born in Marseilles into a strict religious family which he found suffocating
  • He had a troubled childhood, suffering from meningitis and depression the symptoms of which led to him being isolated at school
  • He was extremely strong willed and reluctant to conform to the conventions of society: as a consequence of this his parents arranged for him to be incarcerated in a sanatorium in 1915

7. Life and Background

  • During this time he was prescribed opium and this was the start of a long-standing addiction to drugs.
  • Once released, Artaud embarked on a fascinating series of experiences that helped him to formulate his extreme views on both society and theatre.

8. Life and Background

  • He was a prolific poet
  • 1924 he became an active and influential member of the surrealist movement
  • He and the surrealists shared a political viewpoint based around anarchy and free-thinking, and a vision of the theatre as a place not for bourgeois entertainment but for emotional discovery

9. Life and Background

  • However, the relationship between Artaud and the group was often strained and two years later he was expelled.
  • He acted in many films and was celebrated for his non-realist style.

10. Balinese Influence

  • 1931, Artaud witnessed a performance by Balinese dancers in Paris that acted as a catalyst for the development of his theatre.
  • Balinese dance-drama is religious in nature and involves the acting out of Hindu legends in a stylised way, with the use of deeply unrealistic makeup, symbolic masks and hand gestures.

11. Balinese Influence

  • Artaud was struck by the magical quality of the work. The dancers dependence on gestures, facial expressions and visuals created a physical language that appealed to the unconscious.
  • The focus was not on verbal communication

12. Continued

  • Artaud argued that it was to offer something that could not be offered by a novel or poem, or any other medium.

13. Other Influences

  • Two other influences affected the development of his ideas:
  • a)The painting The Daughters of Lot by Leyden. The violent images in the painting had a theatrical quality to them and he considered the impact that such still image could have on stage
  • b)Film, in particular the work of the Marx brothers. Artaud was fascinated by the manner in which they juxtaposed images to create humour.

14. Theatre of Cruelty

  • Artaud organised his ideas into a manifesto called the Theatre of Cruelty
  • His aim was to reinvent the theatrical experience, abolishing the traditions of realism and allowing design and performance skills to work together to maximise the sensory experience of the audience.

15. Theatre of Cruelty

  • Before we can experiment with practical ideas it is important to understand the essence of Artauds theatre. It was revolutionary which partly explains why he was unable to achieve a production that did justice to all of his aims.

16. The auditorium

  • To break from the restrictions of psychological theatre started with the nature of the performance space.
  • The stage should be a single, undivided locale, probably a barn or a hanger, which would allow direct communication between the actors and the audience. All decoration needed to be removed from the space so that every area could be used.

17. The audience

  • Would be in the middle on swivel chairs, while a walkway would be built around the edges of the auditorium to enable certain action to take place above the spectators. The show as Artaud called his performance,would fill the space using different areas and levels to engulf the audience and assault their senses.

18. Sound

  • Artaud believed traditional theatre was a slave to dialogue, so he tried to redefine the aural experience. He focused on sounds rather than words. Screams were extremely important to him since they represented the most primitive emotion.
  • Musical Instruments were used in experimental ways

19. Costume and design

  • All costume should be devoid of any contemporary relevance and should be specifically designed for each show. However, he felt it might be appropriate to look at images from the past and designs that might take their influences from certain cultural rituals. Masks and even puppets were encourage as a way of moving away from realism.

20. Technical Aspects

  • Technical equipment was limited for Artaud but he saw that the need for more technical equipment was necessary.
  • He thought about subtlety of use of colour to communicate complex images.

21. The Plague

  • Artaud used the metaphor of the plague to relate to his ideas about theatre.
  • Theatre action is as beneficial as the plague, impelling us to see ourselves as we are, making the masks fall.. (Theatre and Its Double)

22. Ritual

  • He was fascinated by their mystical quality and their ability to generate a heightened level of engagement from those who participated.

23. The double

  • Fascination by the concepts of dream and reality.

24. Practical exercises

  • Individual task (5 mins) without using words use your voice to create new sounds to convey your feelings towards an inanimate object, such as a chair, or the wall.
  • Try to experiment with different extremes of emotions, building up using a scale.
  • Use of breath, teeth, nasal breath, tongue, and lips should all be experimented with
  • Volume, pitch, pace too.

25. 2 tribes (10 mins)

  • Half the group create a ritualistic movement around the centre of the space can represent a waterhole for example.
  • Other half enter the space and try to disrupt the proceedings using only their voices and proximity.
  • Evaluate the resulting action is there a basic primal theme? Why do you think that is?

26. Movement use of the whole body (10 mins)

  • Lets revisit an exercise. Join with 2 or 3 others.
  • You are to represent a body or organ which is in some way diseased or infected.
  • The infection needs to be cut away.
  • The diseased part is sliced away without anaesthetic.
  • Use you full vocal range and add movement consider short, twitching movements juxtaposed with spasm, paralysis, defibrillation, fitting etc.
  • Your intention is to shock the audience.
  • Showback two at a time and evaluate

27. Further exercises (10-15 mins)

  • Find the intuitive response (individually or as a small group if you feel confident enough) within to:
  • Crave
  • Desire
  • Lust
  • Fear
  • Loathing
  • Rage
  • Discuss the addition of music or sound to heighten the experience for the audience
  • HWK write up detailed notes, find suitable texts which could be explored in this style such as Berkoff s Metamorphosis