Grotowskis Influence on South African Theatre

Topics: Theatre, Theatre director, Bertolt Brecht Pages: 3 (968 words) Published: May 5, 2008
Jerzy Grotowski has been noted for being one of the most influential figures in 20th Century theatre. His avant-garde approach to performance and execution paved the way for many important theatrical works. Of note is Woza Albert, created by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon. This satirical look at Apartheid South Africa took to heart many of the theories and ideas that Grotowski explored in his writing and theatrical works.

Woza Albert is a what-if scenario that plays out the second coming of Jesus Christ in Apartheid South Africa. It deals with the injustices of Apartheid and the Afrikaner government through ingenious humour and pathos. The entire case is made up of only two male performers that serve as multiple allegorical figures for the various types of oppressed people during the Apartheid era.

The creators of the play looked to Polish theatre director Grotowski for the inspiration to pull off what could have been a very extravagant theatrical experience. Instead, what took place was an intimate play-off between audience and performer that resulted in a much more profound experience for both parties involved. This is in fact a direct philosophy of Grotowski in that he was known for pioneering the technique known as ‘Poor Theatre’, a style that can be directly applied to Woza Albert.

Grotowski’s notion of Poor Theatre was that the performer’s concern was with the audience, not the stage design or lighting or any type of special effects. He summarizes it best in the quote: ‘By gradually eliminating whatever proved superfluous, we found that theatre can exist without make-up, without autonomic costume and scenography, without a separate performance area (stage), without lighting and sound effects, etc. It cannot exist without the spectator relationship of perceptual, direct, communion.’ What he is saying here is the idea is to create a ‘pure’ space for the actor and thus allow for the audience to be affected and reflect on the...
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