The theatre of cruelty is a form of theatre invented by Antonin Artaud, a very well known theatre practitioner. The theatre of cruelty is defined as, by the dictionary, “a type of theatre advocated by Antonin Artaud in Le Théâtre et son double that seeks to communicate to its audience a sense of pain, suffering, and evil, using gesture, movement, sound, and symbolism rather than language”. To break it down even further, the theatre of cruelty is one of many forms of theatre that incorporates the use of surrealism, juxtapositions and lots and lots of symbolism, rather than in usual forms of theatre where words and storylines are the so-called norm or the framework of the plays. As you might have foretold by the name of this form of theatre, the theatre of cruelty is often seen as a way to portray the very dark or, in a sense, evil types of theatre. This form of theatre isn’t one that is usually widely practiced all over the world, as it is known to be extremely, excruciatingly cruel on the actor. It is, therefore, named to be, the Theatre Of Cruelty.
Development and why he founded it:
Antonin Artaud invented the theater of cruelty partly because of the surrealist movement. he founded the theater of cruelty in 1935 in which terror and pain were the most vital and crucial parts of the concept of theater of cruelty. The most important part of the production, to Artaud, was the audience. He needed to make sure that the audience would be captivated and shocked with the performance at all times, which, if they were, would prove a success to making a theatre of cruelty.
Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud was born on 4th September 1896 in Marseille, France. He was diagnosed with meningitis when he was five and was believed to be a cause of his psychological problems later in life. Antonin Artaud very strongly believed that theatre could put people back in touch with natural instincts lost through suppression of the subconscious and over-reliance on reason and intellect. With this belief, he created the Theatre of Cruelty. In his essay, ‘No More Masterpieces’ he wrote perhaps the clearest description of why he decided to use the name “Theatre of Cruelty”.
“ With this media we all have today for belittling everything, as soon as I said ‘cruelty’ everyone took it to mean ‘blood’. But a ‘theatre of cruelty’ means theatre that is difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And on a performing level, it has nothing to do with the cruelty we practice on one another… but the far more terrible, essential cruelty objects can practice on us. We are not free and the sky can still fall on our heads. And above all else, theatre is made to teach us this.” Many of you would probably be freaked out be this and would immediately put this book down after reading that, probably in fear of getting your soul sucked away by some evil spirit or something, but true and passionate theatre practitioners, be it a director, script-writer, actor or even a teacher, would truly understand and relate with this. If one such as myself were to further zoom in and focus on what Antonin said on the description of the theatre of cruelty and why he named it that, we would find that, indeed, this form of theatre wasn’t being cruel to the audience or certain characters on the play, but the cruelty that some certain objects could do to us. What he means by this is probably that it is cruel on the actor of the piece both physically and mentally. That is why, if one wishes to put themselves in the treacherous task of putting up a proper play or piece of theatre that very clearly portrays the true purpose of ‘theatre of cruelty”, he or she MUST practice beforehand to get used to the very demanding conditions.
The Purpose of Theatre of Cruelty
Antonin Artaud created the theatre if cruelty as he wanted this form of theatre to attack as well as release deep rooted fears and anxieties that are usually suppressed...