Antonin Artaud

A background to the infamous french director and actor which invented the theatre of cruelty

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  • Created on: 01-04-11 11:35
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Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896, in Marseille ­ March 4, 1948 in Paris) was
a French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director. Artaud believed that the
Theatre should affect the audience as much as possible, therefore he used a
mixture of strange and disturbing forms of lighting, sound and performance. In
his book The Theatre and Its Double, which contained the first and second
manifesto for a "Theatre of Cruelty," Artaud expressed his admiration for
Eastern forms of theatre, particularly the Balinese. He admired Eastern theatre
because of the codified, highly ritualized and precise physicality of Balinese
dance performance, and advocated what he called a "Theatre of Cruelty". At one
point, he stated that by cruelty, he
meant not exclusively sadism or causing
pain, but just as often a violent, physical
determination to shatter the false reality.
He believed that text had been a tyrant
over meaning, and advocated, instead,
for a theatre made up of a unique
language, halfway between thought and
gesture. Artaud described the spiritual
in physical terms, and believed that all
theatre is physical expression in space.
The Theatre of Cruelty has been created
in order to restore to the theatre a
passionate and convulsive conception
of life, and it is in this sense of violent
rigour and extreme condensation of
scenic elements that the cruelty on
which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody
when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a
kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must
be paid.
­ Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern
Imagination, to Artaud, was reality he considered dreams, thoughts and
delusions as no less real than the "outside" world. To him, reality appeared to be
a consensus, the same consensus the audience accepts when they enter a theatre
to see a play and, for a time, pretend that what they are seeing is real.
Artaud saw suffering as essential to existence, and thus rejected all utopias as
inevitable dystopia.

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