The Madman Himself – Antonin Artaud 101

ImagePoet, playwright, actor, practitioner, theorist, director – do you detect a hint of awe? Rarely has a single figure, so irrelevant during his time, so completely influenced modern theatre as we know it. Theatre critic Susan Sontag proclaimed that Artaud “has had an impact so profound that the course of all recent serious theatre can be said to divide into two periods—before Artaud and after Artaud.” Whilst this is a far too dogmatic approach for my liking, after Artaud died (with a shoe in his hand!!) his writings have influenced the likes of Peter Brook and inspired world-renowned theatre company, Complicite.

Rejecting the highly traditional, naturalistic and bourgeoisie theatre in early twentieth century Paris, he developed a radical philosophy culminating in a series of essays entitled ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’. Artaud believed that theatre’s place in society was to challenge, to affect and to free an audience; none of which classical theatre achieved. Remarkably similar to German psychologist Sigmund Freud, he sought to free the repressed subconscious, taking heavy inspiration from dreams to wake an audience “hearts and minds”.

He wanted to shock an audience, stripping the human psyche to its most primal, most human characteristics and as such placed great focus on ritual, calling for actors “burning at the stake, laughing at the flames”. For Artaud, classical theatre had placed too much focus on the spoken word and scripted language.

In response, he crafted a new language; a language of screams and cries, of gesture and movement a language of primal guttural sounds that would both terrify and delight, encompassing the audience in new, total theatre. The audience would become a ‘participant’ rather than an external, comfortable ‘spectator’. Furthermore, Artaud’s revolutionary use of space advocated the removal of the traditional (in it’s most derogatory sense) end on stage and auditorium with a bare, empty space and with an audience “physically engulfed” by performers and emotion, thrown in the “middle of a vortex”.

I often cite Antonin Artaud as my greatest inspiration. Many people ask me why? He’s a madman! Well, I believe that…

In every madman there is a misunderstood genius, a fragmented insight so terrifying for society in its truth that to defame the man from whose head this insight shines is the only solution. In this solution there is only lies.

Over and out,

The Madman

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Changing casts? A Curious Incident…

  Curious Incident 1

Distressed by sounds, rattled by colours and has a fear for metaphors. That’s Christopher Boone. A 15 year old boy with ‘behavioural problems’ trying to cope with the chaos of regular life and trawl through the hazards of Swindon Station.

‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ is as much dazzling as it is touching and has got to be one of the most ingenious productions ever to run in London’s West End. As cheesy as it sounds, this was a production that truly did ‘exceed expectations’

I must admit I was slightly worried about seeing one of my childhood heroes live on stage especially as Mark Haddon’s 2003 bestseller was lumped in the ‘unstageable’ category. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the grand entrance to the Apollo theatre (now sadly in need of some TLC) and took my seat in the upper circle speculating about whether Luke Treadaway and Marriane Elliot could replicate the success of the award-winning ‘War Horse’.

With the dimming of the house lights and dramatic boom these doubts fled instantly as Bunny Christie’s inventive design instantly portrayed the linear yet magical mind of young Christopher. Train tracks running along the floor, chalk drawings splayed out across the stage, a bombardment of visual effects translated Christopher’s inner complexities to the audience, bringing to life Haddon’s literature. Convincing technical effects ensured a visual feast but this production was not just about magical staircases and flashing lights.

There’s a reason Luke Treadaway won the Olivier Award for his performance as Christopher. His performance was astonishing in its sensitivity, carrying both comic relief and great emotional depth.

Curious Incident 2

Yet we must not forget Simon Stephens here, the playwright who scripted the play from Haddon’s novel. He achieves the impossible here, sticking true to the themes of the book evoking all the sympathy for Christopher and the extent of his father’s frustration.

Now enough of that raving! Following my initial review (abridged above), I returned to the Apollo Theatre, luckily before the cave in, to closely observe the new cast in play. Frankly, I was disappointed. Make no mistake, this is still a fantastic production by a brilliant team but having seen the original cast in action this feels like a stale remake. Indeed a colleague of mine walked out saying “that was good” – and that’s precisely what it was; good but not great. I suppose that’s to be expected with Mike Noble tasked with emulating second for second Treadaway’s performance. Technically and superficially the original is still there but feels as if the shiny gloss has been worn down leaving a somewhat lacklustre result in comparison. Tightly rehearsed and carefully choreographed it continues to wow audiences, but to put it simply, this latest version just lacks the spark that brought the production into the realm of ‘brilliance’.

Did the new cast match up to expectations? Share your thoughts below.

Over and out,

The Madman

Musings of a Madman

Hmmm, I’m writing a blog???!? 

Ok then, right. Yup. Time to write.  Hmmmmm….

So I suppose I should tell you a bit about myself – I guess that’s what most bloggers do. So I’m…….nah. What would be the fun in that? I’m not going to give things away that easily! Ask me if you really want to know. Instead I’m going to tell you why everyone thinks I’m mad…

It could be because I have a strange obsession with falling scorpions, or actors screaming half way through a performance, or just that I’m a monster raving loony. Seriously though, it’s just because I FREAKING LOVE ANTONIN ARTAUD.

Yup, I said it, I LOVE ARTAUD. But aside from that godly genius I’m also a frequent denizen of the emerging Islington Fringe Theatre scene (Red Lion Pub anyone?) and of course, London’s West End.

But come now, that’s enough from me. Keep your eyes peeled for my latest musings on a mad man by a mad man, a random assortment of reviews, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Over and out,

The Madman