During the first 1930s, the French dramatist and professional Antonin Artaud put forth a theory for a Surrealist theater called the Theatre of Cruelty. Predicated on ritual and fantasy, this form of theatre launches an assault on the spectators' subconscious in an attempt to release deep-rooted concerns and anxieties that are normally suppressed, forcing visitors to view themselves and their natures without the shield of civilization. Artaud envisioned the break down of the barriers between spectator and performer to heighten the theater heading experience. These ideas have acted as a catapult for many following avant garde theatre practitioners (Innes. P. 61).
In 1938, Artaud published The Theatre and Its Double, the main of his works. This booklet contained both manifestos of the Theater of Cruelty, essential text messages in understanding his creative project. The Theater of Cruelty reduces the written text by emphasizing screams, inarticulate cries, and symbolic gestures. Graphically portraying the extremes of human nature on stage in order to distress the audience and thus evoke the necessary response, transcending the performance above simple entertainment. Artaud hoped that his Theater of Cruelty would leave the audience with some type of revelation within themselves, troubling their tranquility of head, and liberating their unconscious. He planned that "everything is dark buried, buried deep, unrevealed in your brain, should be manifested in a sort of physical projection as real" (Innes. P. 70). This was to be performed through the 'cruelty' of the spectacle. However, we have to not take cruelty to mean violence, it must be taken in its broadest sense. The cruelty is not solely sadistic or bloody (Artaud in, Shumacher, 2001. P. 119). Artaud thought of it as an agent to heighten response by magnification "the spectator will be shaken and set on edge by the internal dynamism of the spectacle" (Innes. P. 65). He wanted to show mankind in its uncooked point out before it was transformed by society. It was this notion of the 'organic talk about' that was central to his eyesight, to go back to the 'uncivilized' roots that the likes of Balinese Theater originated from.
Artaud indicated his admiration for Eastern types of theatre, specially the Balinese Theatre, in his publication The Theatre and its own Double. It was at the Colonial Exposition of 1931, where he noticed the Balinese Theater, that he was struck by the marvelous difference between those plays and our traditional American play. He was impressed by the "instinctive success of special" (Innes. P. 59) in Balinese Theater and was taken in that it provided little emphasis to words. Artaud was convinced that words are incapable of expressing certain attitudes and feelings, and this by rediscovering common physical indicators, or hieroglyphs, they would be revealed, while verbal manifestation became incantation.
"Every show will contain physical, objective elements perceptible to people. Shouts, groans, apparitions, wonder, dramatic movements of most kinds, the magic beauty of the costumes modeled on certain ritualistic habits, brilliant lamps, vocal, incantational beauty, attractive harmonies, unusual musical notes, colours of items, the physical rhythm of moves whose build and fall season will be wedded to the defeat of moves familiar to all, the tangible appearance of new, astonishing objects, masks, puppets many feet high, abrupt lamps changes, the physical action of lighting stimulating high temperature and cold, and so forth. " (Artaud in, Shumacher, 2001. P. 113)
All of these elements made-up Artaud's stage words, creating 'scenic rhythms' (Innes. P. 66) where words spoken on the level will have the energy they possess in dreams. Action will remain the guts of the play, but its purpose is to reveal the existence of extraordinary forces in man. Artaud required his stage to use shape as it would in a wish, seemingly arbitrary and chaotic but symbolic. He wished the action to look improvised to seem chaotic; however, the moves were meticulously aimed. For The Cenci Artaud broke down actions into numerical sequences. Mass motions were predicated on geometric forms, specifically the circle, that might be instantly recognisable to the audience (Innes. Pp. 67-68).
Artaud was the first to seek out theatrical forms which were specifically uncivilized and non-European. He anticipated the seek out spirituality in theater that has had such a presence since his time. All proof his Theater of Cruelty has been drawn from his writings; his work on the stage has been almost entirely dismissed. "Artaud's name elicits a method: Primitivism - Ritual - Cruelty - Spectacle" (Innes. P. 60) and even though he has been attacked on various grounds his theory is also acknowledged with a total reinvention of theater. Although a highly influential physique in avant garde theatre Artaud did not gain to popularity until the 1964 Theatre of Cruelty test by Peter Brook and Charles Marowitz at London Novice Dramatic Relationship (LAMDA).
Peter Brook became a convert to avant garde at a relatively late point in his job. Looking to Anouilh and Cocteau Brook arrived to a thought of non-verbal poetry of the theatre, but it was Genet's play The Monitors that lead to his exploration of Artaud in 1964, and consequently the Theatre of Cruelty experiment with Marowitz. Their Theatre of Cruelty test was designed as a training for actors, and culminated in some demonstration shows that included the first staging of Artaud's surrealist playlet The Spurt of Bloodstream. The results were contained into a creation of Genet's The Monitors and Brooks dazzling interpretation of Marat Sade. This attempt to translate Artaud's theories to the stage lead Brook to his visit a ritualistic theatre. Brook and Marowitz detailed their goals for the Theater of Cruelty test in an incredibly inflated way:
"to produce "the poetic state, a transcendent connection with life" through shock effects, cries, incantation, masks, effigies, and ritual halloween costumes; to use changes of light to "arouse feelings of high temperature and frigid"; to provide different activities in separated areas "all flooding one's subconscious simultaneously"; also to create discontinuous physical rhythms "whose crescendo will accord exactly with the pulsation of moves familiar to everyone", corresponding to "the busted and fragmentary manner in which most people experience contemporary truth. "" (Innes. P. 127)
This statement quite definitely demonstrates how Artaud himself got talked about his staging. The workshop, however, had a different purpose than Artaud and more successful in the demo of this principle. Brook had not been as religious as Artaud who thought that his theater may lead to spiritual awakening and act as helpful information for enlightenment. Brook was simpler, looking instead to reinvigorate theater through the theatrical vocabulary not tied to language. Brook used all areas of theatre to level Artaud's ideas including lamps, set, props, halloween costumes and, most of all, action. All dished up to present the audience with a real, raw, psychological experience.
Some of the exercises Brook practised included an actor attempting to portray a certain express without needing any physicality whatsoever, while those viewing tried to think their state he was in. This was of course impossible, that was the idea of the exercise, showing that physicality was extremely important on the level. He built on this exercise when training stars from the Royal Shakespeare Company for his performance on the Screens. Where the actor attempted to "communicate an internal express through thought copy, adding vocal sound and physical rhythms "to discover what was the very least he needed before understanding could be reached. "" (Innes. P. 127). These exercises embody Brook's understanding of the Theater of Cruelty. From the physical the reality of human dynamics and emotions are reached. We sympathise more with the crying girl whose is wrenching in sobs than the woman who stands still battling to make a tear.
It was Brook's development of Weiss' Marat/Sade that brought great acknowledgement to Artaud's ideas. Artaud had been quoted that Sade was his meaning of 'cruelty' so Brook made a decision to focus exclusively on the Artaudian part of the play (Innes. P. 130). The performing consisted largely of pathological symptoms, graphically displaying the physical express of spastics, catatonics etc. Stars were shown videos of Nigerian native rituals to prepare for his or her parts, where participants come to extreme areas of savage madness. This mirrored the positive value positioned on insanity by many avant garde performers and related to Artaud's eye-sight through its grotesque exoticism. This shows the beginnings of Brook's interest with primitivism.
Brook used the same impact and awe techniques as Artaud, but unlike Artaud he could make the concept clear on level. Artaud intended to make a fresh theatre, of something that resembled dreams or nightmares. He wished to take theatre back to the uncivilized and ritualistic side of society. There was a contradiction with the theories he composed and what he presented on level but it is his writing that continue to be referenced. It is his idea of the ritualistic that is mirrored in modern day avant garde practises. Brooks work on ritualistic theater, and primitivism, affects modern theatre professionals in the same way the works of Artaud affected him.
Ed. Schumacher, C. & Brian Singleton. 2001. Artaud on Theatre. (Methuen Publishing Small: London)
Innes, C. 1993. Avant Garde Theatre 1892-1992. (Routledge: London)