The Theatre and Its Double
Book: The Theatre and Its Double
Written by: Antonin Artaud
Published by: Éditions Gallimard (1938)
Antonin Artaud’s ‘The Theatre and Its Double’ is a collection of essays through which he implores a radical revolution in theatre. The book urges the readers that the stage is a ‘concrete physical space’ demanding to be filled with its own concrete language. Artaud wishes to do away with the influence of an author and text and invent a language instead that is absolutely theatrical, comprising space, movement, symbolic gestures, bodily rhythms, music, lights, and sounds. The author attempts to explore the ‘physical presence’ of a language rather than employing it just for intellectual connotations — “All true feeling is in reality untranslatable. To express it is to betray it. But to translate it is to dissimulate it… That is why an image, an allegory, a figure that masks what it would reveal have more significance for the spirit than the lucidities of speech and its analytics”(Pg.51). These ideas are investigated by examining Balinese theatre, which Artaud believes fulfils all the criteria for his ideals. The book also includes the two manifestos on ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’ which is a departure from the traditional Western theatre and seeks to assault the sensorial faculty of the audience. ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’ sought to make the audience an active participant in the performance instead of just a passive viewer — a means to instigate all the sensorial faculties of a spectator.
“ The Theatre of Cruelty was created in order to restore an impassioned, convulsive concept of life to theatre, and we ought to accept the cruelty on which this is based in the sense of drastic strictness, the extreme concentration of stage elements. This cruelty will be bloody if need be, but not systematically so, and will therefore merge with the idea of a kind of severe mental purity, not afraid to pay the cost one must pay in life.” (p. 88)