Alison Croggon at theatre notes has obviously read more criticisms on Artaud than actual writings by Artaud. She parrots the negative critiques that have always been attached to this singularly important theatre theorist. So nothing new in her attempt to marginalize Artaudian theatre by classifying it to the experience of the lunatic asylum, war zone and concentration camp. However, Alison extends this old criticism to new a level by outrageously and unconscionably comparing Artaud to violent terrorist killers Osama bin Laden and Pol Pot. She goes so far as to suggest that Artaud would have celebrated the 9/11 attacks as “the greatest work of art there has ever been!”
The fact that Alison correctly cites the long list of celebrity theatre groundbreakers informed by Artaud’s work makes the following statement of hers doubly absurd.
It is possible to think of the theatrics of torture in Abu Ghraib – the posing for photographs, the obliterating of the human body, the totalising word, the sexual loathing – as the ultimate Artaudian theatre.
George Hunka at Superfluities in support of Alison’s critique of Artuad underlines another old criticism frequently recited and meant to diminish Artaud’s legacy, “the impossibility of the full theatrical realization of the Artaudian vision.” George holds the Peter Brook staging of Marat/Sade of 1964 as the most compelling “incompletion.” He has made this reckless assessment based on the “film version” of a piece of theate and/or the hearsay of other critics.
Artaud’s theory positions mise en scene, movement, gesture, and the actor’s presence in opposition to the dominance of text. No More Masterpieces. British and American theatre is largely script centered, as is most of European theatre, so no wonder George and Alison both seem unaware of the many less celebrated contemporary physical theatre ensembles around world that trace their lineage indirectly and directly from Artaud.
The divide between praxis/theory will always remain a dilemma, but the performance art/dance form Butoh as originated by Tatsumi Hijikata is arguably the truest realization of Artaudian theatre. Artaud’s influence on Hijikata is outlined in this excellent article Ankoku Butoh as Cruel Theatre.