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Amir Abdul Zahra - The politics of change an theatrical interaction. Brecht, Artaud and Boal..pdf

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Journal of the College of Arts. University of Basrah No. (60) 2012 ( 82 ( The Politics of Change and Theatrical Interaction: A Critical Investigation of the Theories of Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal By Amir Abdul Zahra Al-Azraki The theatre restores us all our dormant conflicts and all their powers, and gives these powers names we hail as symbols: and behold! befor
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  Journal of the College of Arts. University of Basrah No. (60) 2012   (   82 (   The Politics of Change and Theatrical Interaction: A Critical Investigation of the Theories of Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal By Amir Abdul Zahra Al-Azraki   The theatre restores us all our dormant conflicts and all their  powers, and gives these powers names we hail as symbols: and  behold! before our eyes is fought a battle of symbols, one charging against another in an impossible melée; for there can be theatre only from the moment when the impossible really begins and when the  poetry which occurs on the stage sustains and superheats the realized symbols. In the true theatre a play disturbs the senses' repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolution (which moreover can have its full effect only if it remains virtual), and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic. Antonin Artaud, Collected Works We need a type of theatre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses within the particular historical field of human relations in which the action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feelings which help transform the field itself. Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre But the theatre can also be a weapon for liberation. For that, it is necessary to create appropriate theatrical forms. Change is imperative. Augusto Boal, The Theatre of the Oppressed  Journal of the College of Arts. University of Basrah No. (60) 2012   (   83 (   Undoubtedly, Artaudian theatre is seen as apolitical, a mystical venue for conjuring up collective emotions in contrast to Brechtian rational and political epic theatre and Boal‟s  political theatre of the oppressed. Importantly, Artaud, Brecht, and Boal diverge in theorizing about the politics of change and theatrical interaction between the actor and the spectator. Hence, the aim of this paper is to explore the politics, mechanisms, workings, and conception of change and theatrical interactivity in Ar  taud‟s, Brecht‟ s , and Boal‟s theories. I. Brecht and Artaud First of all, while Brecht believes that man is conditioned  by social circumstances and that change, therefore, should be first sought in the social forces (be they economic or ideological), Artaud believes that change should start with the individual. In differentiating between the „dramatic‟ and „epic‟ theatre, Brecht emphasizes the idea that “social being determines thought” and that man should be perceived as “process” ( Brecht 37). He postulates that “hum an character must be understood as the totality of all social conditions” and that “the epic form is the only one that can comprehend all the processes ” ( Studying  Bertolt Brecht   4). Significantly, Brecht thinks that theatre should  be an agent for social and political change. To achieve such a goal, Brecht suggests, is to make use of the technique of „alienation‟ which enables theatre to utilize its scientific method of „dialectical materialism‟.  (Brecht193) This blending of Hegelian and Marxist dialectics c an also be realized in “the actor who impersonates the character, yet remains himself; the stage that represents reality, yet remains a stage, the characters who are themselves, yet can be made into something else.” (Harrop 218) Artaud ‟s premise , on the other hand, consists in bringing man back to the state of srcinal purity which he alleges existed  Journal of the College of Arts. University of Basrah No. (60) 2012   (   84 (    prior to Western civilization. By “furnishing t he spectator with the truthful precipitates of dreams, his taste for crime, his erotic obsession, his savagery…even his cannibalism”, the Artaudian theatre becomes an outlet which has a healing effect (Artaud 92).Thus, theatre becomes an outlet, for both the actor and the spectator, for harmful, destructive impulses that humans keep within themselves. (Auslander 23 ) Unlike Brecht‟s aim  of transforming the audience by provoking his critical and rational awareness, Artaud‟s theatre of cruelty  presents a revelation of violent images, which does not necessarily entail physical or spiritual maltreatment, as an artistically transforming and healing force that transforms the spectator  by “exteriorizing his latent cruelty, while at the same time forcing him to assume an external attitude corresponding to the state of psychological order which one wishes to restore.” (Innes,  Avant Garde   Theatre 87) The only way to heal, for Artaud, is through the theatre of cruelty which forces the audience to confront and face collective desires and images buried in the subconscious; actors and audience should leave exhausted and transformed. In doing so, Artaud wants us “to recognize and confront our dark impulses so we can be free, or at least in control, of them.” (Auslander 24)  Underlining the  primitivism in Artaud‟s work, Innes outlines Artaud‟s basic formula: “Primitivism—  Ritual  —  Cruelty  —  Spectacle ” (Innes 60). This formula can be seen in Artaud‟s  scenario The Conquest of  Mexico   where “the role of ritual and primitive religious terror as vehicle to return to primal myth and symbol, the transcendence of individual psychology by collective consciousness accessible through the mass spectacle”  converge. (Fuchs& Chaudhuri 231) Thus far, Artaud‟s and Brecht‟s purposes of theatre seem to contradict each other. But, for Castri, these aims are not contradictory but complementary. In  Per Un Teatro Politico:  Piscator, Brecht, and Artaud   (1973), Castri claims that change should be on both levels: the individual and society. Castri‟s  Journal of the College of Arts. University of Basrah No. (60) 2012   (   85 (   “prospective realism” is therefore engendered by a dialectical relationship between Artaudian irrationality, which is concerned with human's soul, and Brechtian rationality, which is concerned with man in society: Man and the world can not be separated. Only by changing society around him and his innermost  personal life can he be liberated and restored to his true self. Only by combining Brecht and Artaud, and their respective ancestors to boot, can a political theatre as conceived by Castri become effective. (Grimm 155)  Nonetheless,  both Brecht‟s and Artaud‟s functions of theatre could not be utterly actualized. For Derrida, A rtaud‟s theatre of cruelty is “an impossibility” because it “must to some degree involve representation and repetition”; the theatre of cruelty “neither begins nor is completed within the purity of simple presence, but rather is already within representati on.” (Puchner 158) Yet, for Shannon Jackson “Derrida read Artaud as advocating theatre that closed down representational systems  between signifier and signified into a state of primordial being.” (Jackson 118) Furthermore, many critics, including Martin Esslin and J.L. Styan, point out that Brecht could not achieve what he yearned for. Paradoxically, instead of being aroused to revolutionary fervour or to critical detachment which underlies what is termed the 'V-effect', the audience of, for example, the Three Penny Opera  and  Mother Courage  acted the opposite. In spite of many alienating techniques (e.g., characters directly address the audience, actors/actresses step out of their character to comment on the action of the play, and the use of disruptive music in the midst of realistic scenes…etc) the irony of the Three Penny Opera was missed and the play was perceived as a happy, sentimental musical. Also, the audience of  Mother Courage  saw the character of the mother as a tragic figure and

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Jul 23, 2017
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