Antonin Artaud’s theatre

Metaphysics and the Mise en Scène
How does it happen that in the theater, at least in the theater as we know it in Europe, or better in the Occident, everything specifically theatrical, i.e. everything that cannot be expressed in speech, in words, or, if you prefer, everything that is not contained as a function of the exigencies of this sonorisation) is left in the background?
Dialogue – a thing written and spoken – does not belong specifically to the stage, it belongs to books
I say that the stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak.
I have noticed that in our theater which lives under the exclusive dictatorship of speech, /…/ everything I consider specifically theatrical in the theater, all these elements when they exist apart from text are generally considered the minor part of theater; they are negligently referred to as “craft”, and identified with what is understood by staging or “production”, /…/ a way which seems to me entirely Occidental or rather Latin, i.e. pigheaded /…/
What is Latin is this need to use words to express ideas that are obvious.
I believe, however, that our present social state is iniquitous and should be destroyed. If this is a fact for the theater to be preoccupied with, it is even more a matter for machine guns.
The contemporary theater is decadent because it has lost the feeling on the one hand for seiousness and on the other for laughter; because it has broken away from gravity, from effects that are immediate and painful – in a word, from Danger.
I expect many will be tempted to tell me that if there is one inhuman idea in the world, one ineffectual and dead idea which conveys little enough even to the mind, it is indeed the idea of metaphysics.
This is due, as René Guénon says, “to our purely Occidental way, our antipoetic and truncated way of considering principles (apart from the massice and energetic spiritual state which corresponds to them).”
In the Oriental theater of metaphysical tendencies, as opposed to the Occidental theater of psychological tendencies, this whole complex of gestures, signs, postures, and sonorities /…/ induces thought to adopt profound attitudes which could be called metaphysics-in-action.
Everything in this active poetic mode of envisaging expression on the stage leads us to abandon the modern humanistic and psychological meaning of the theater, in order to recover the religious and mystic preference of which our theater has completely lost the sense.

The Theater of Cruelty (First Manifesto)
/…/ instead of continuing to rely upon texts considered definitive and sacred, it is essential to put an end to the subjugation of the theater to the text, and to recover the notion of a kind of unique language half-way between gesture and thought.
Once aware of this language in space, language of sounds, cries, lights, onomatopoeia, the theater must organize it into veritable hieroglyphs /…/
The question, then, for the theater, is to create a metaphysics of speech, gesture, and expression, in order torescue it from its servitude to psychology and “human interest”.
this naked language of the theater (not a virtual but a real language) must permit, by its use of man’s nervous magnetism, the transgression of the ordinary limits of art and speech, in order to realize actively, that is to say magically, in real terms, a kind of total creation in which man must reassume his place between dream and events.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: They will be treated as objects and as part of the set.
Also, the need to act directly and profoundly upon the sensibility through the organs invites research, from the point of view of sound, into qualities and vibrations of absolutely new sounds, qualities which present-day musical instruments do not possess and which require the revival of ancient and forgotten instruments or the invention of new ones.

THE STAGE – THE AUDITORIUM: We abolish the stage and the auditorium and replace them by a single site, without partition or barrier of any kind, which will become the theater of the action.
WORKS: We shall not act a written play, but we shall make attempts at direct staging, around themes, facts, or known works. The very nature and disposition of the room suggest this treatment, and there is no theme, however vast, that can be denied us.
THE CINEMA: To the crude visualization of what is, the theater through poetry opposes images of what is not. However, from the point of view of action, one cannot compare a cinematic image which, however poetic it may be, is limited by the film, to a theatrical image which obeys all the exigencies of life.
CRUELTY: Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, the theater is not possible.
THE PUBLIC: First of all this theater must exist.


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