cruel theatre indeed
Like the fictional character Adrian Leverkuhn in Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus, Antonin Artaud seemed damned to embody the sickness of his age. The difference is that Artaud was not only a real person, but also brutally aware of the world he lived in, and this became the basis for his art. Briefly a member of the Surrealist group, his Theatre of Cruelty may have been his most constructive project in regards to his own stability. His legacy is in the form of many poems, essays, drawings and a handful of plays and film performances. He brought Van Gogh’s plight into the 20th Century and became a template for the artistic social outcast as a type from the 1940’s onward. Grotowski, as much as he admired the man, was tired of how pervasive and superficial Artaud’s influence on theatre culture had become, declaring in 1967 that we had entered “the age of Artaud”, something he was determined to get away from. He did so by putting the health of the performer first and by developing an outlook and methodology that he thoroughly tested, while always remaining committed to the basic tenets of theatre. As a result, Grotowski’s work continues to influence performers in many disciplines to the present day.
Antonin Artaud circa 1920