The Artaudian audience/performance relationship: Theatre of cruelty and modern possibilities
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In 1938, Antonin Artaud established his undeminishable place in theatre history with the publication of his manifesto The Theatre and Its Double. His writing concerning Theatre of Cruelty has challenged theatre practitioners to reexamine popularly accepted theatre practices and possibilities. The fundamental problem with Artaud’s theories, one that has persisted for the past 70 years, lies in the interpretation of his writing. The precarious nature of those theories has taken widely varying shape in the works of theatre artists in the 20th and 21st centuries. Chapter I examines the possible interpretations and (mis)interpretations of Artaudian theory as applied to group theory and concepts of drama therapy. While many scholars and directors have interpreted Artaud’s writing as a means of therapy that is conducive to the emotional stimulation experienced by the audience, others argue that Artaud’s theories are most accurately applied to audiences as a mass entity for the purposes of political manipulation. Chapter II follows The Living Theatre, whose performance history has beginnings in conjunction with the birth of Artaud’s theories. As the oldest surviving experimental theatre, The Living Theatre claims to directly embrace Artaud’s writing and ideology in the production of their own works. When considering a repertoire that began in 1947, how has this company applied (or misapplied) theory to performance practice? In chapter III, the performance biography of Peter Brook takes primary focus. While the ideas behind Theatre of Cruelty comprise a fundamental part of Brook’s own directorial approach, how have those theories undergone a very distinctive evolution in 60 years of application?