Artaud: Theatre will never recover – Theatre Informal Essay
“Theatre will never recover its own specific powers of action until it has recovered its own language.” What do you think Artaud meant by this remark? Artaud thought that theatre was becoming far too reliant upon simple storylines and the spoken text, he believed theatre had become a one-trick pony run by greed.
Artaud thought theatre to be far more important than merely a night out, he believed theatre should work to cleanse an audience, in that it should inspire and work to ‘open the recesses of the heart’.
Artaud believed his own methods of theatre would ‘recover’ the specific powers of action of the theatre, which he believed where to change an audience so that they could experience the true essence of suffering and deep emotion.
Artaud aimed to do this by evoking a series of raw emotional experiences by using a raw and physical ‘New Language.’According to Artaud, theatres own language consists of a visual language of movement, of attitudes and of gestures. Artaud believed that unless theatre became less reliant on the spoken word and change its priorities it would never be able to produce a piece of theatre that would actually have an objective or purpose other that idle entertainment.
In comparison to his own ideas on performance, the orthodox theatre was far too reliant on a set structure and frustrated Artaud by distancing itself from an audience, therefore reducing the audiences experience and generally working against his goals.
Artaud stated that ‘The theatre of cruelty is where the spectator becomes so completely involved that she or he is changed by the event through the experiences she or he suffers with the characters on the stage.’
By relying so heavily on straightforward methods and the insufficient power of spoken words which would not dare to stray from a set script, the orthodox theatre was contradicting Artaud’s ‘Theatre of cruelty’ and working against the theatres overall purpose.
This is why Artaud refers to Recovery in his quote, as he believed that the orthodox method in theatre was distracting an audience and stealing from the true theatre whose function was to purify its spectators.
Artaud claimed theatre should have ‘control’ over an audience and often compared his theatre to the plague in that ‘theatre should swoop down amongst a crowd of spectators with the awesome horror of the plague, creating a complete upheaval- physical, mental and moral.’ This comparison with the theatre explained what Artaud believed his theatres ‘specific powers of action’ should be, but believed if he were to recover the theatre from the orthodox method he would need to recover the essence or language from the orthodox language, which above all relied heavily upon the spoken word.
To reclaim its own language, theatre would not completely dispel the orthodox spoken word but rather give vocals the importance that they have in dreams.
Artaud longed to work without words at the base of drama and saw through verbal communication and highlighted its inadequacies by stating that he believed it to be ‘glib and meaningless’
Artaud’s ‘concrete language’ would evoke a far more primitive reaction from an audience by using a primitive language of rhythm and sound, gesture and texture. As if to further this thought on the reaction of an audience in a primitive manner, Artaud describes his desired reaction in an audience by recounting his memory of a snake and its response to the rhythm of an instrument, which is on a gut level.
By comparing an audience to this charmed snake, Artaud shows he intends to charm an audience into reacting spontaneously and without thought, but identifies the spoken word cannot do this.
Artaud believed ‘concrete language’ was the only method that could provoke such a reaction from an audience and was sufficient to draw an audience into a position which would allow them to understand the deep and highly charged subject matter that would work to cleanse its audience.
The use of Rhythm etc would draw an audience into an animalistic state, in that they could be led and would effectively lure an audience into becoming involved emotionally with a piece, rather than keeping their distance and trusting in the spoken word which would evoke thought and the impersonal familiarity of the spoken text that is insufficient in making an audience feel collectively involved in the theatre.
This is the reason that Artaud was desperate to reclaim theatre from the grasp of the orthodox and its insufficient language and identified that the original language of theatre was what was needed to be recovered before Artaud could set about changing a spectators viewpoint and perspective on a subject matter.
Artaud identified theatre as an important way of making the general public see issues and human weakness, not just in the characters performing on the stage but amongst themselves.
In conclusion, Artaud decided that if his theatre was to take on any meaning it must differ from the orthodox which was, in his view distracting an audience from the real aims theatre should achieve. He identified that theatre was important in translating a message but it would not realize this plan unless it changed drastically from the path it was taking at the time.
Therefore Artaud refers to the word ‘recovery’ in that his goal was to reclaim the theatre from the orthodox and set about changing it so that it could serve a purpose other than simply to entertain.
Artaud realised his concrete language was a key way of making his own specific powers of action stand alone and differ from the norm.
Artaud saw his language as the solution as it would speak to the audience in a way that words could not.
Artaud looked to revolutionalise the theatre and achieve something new that would change the face of theatre and its audience.