ART OF IRRELEVANCE
obliteration of the body isn't easy nor obvious and nor is it about
creating new clothes for the cultural emperor. Shadow House PITS
discusses theatre as mythic creation as opposed to theatre as replica.
following article includes selections from Peter Butz' video of GEESE
painter who only painted Van Gogh paintings or replicas of great
masters! Imagine a photographer who only took replicas of Alfred
Stieglitz photos of the 1920s! We might admire such efforts if done
well. We might acknowledge a place for such activity. Yet it is not
the core of what makes art or photography relevant today. Yet so much
of our theatre today is organized to proffer the replicate ... those
whose shape, inspiration and life is drawn from past repertoires,
styles and nostalgic appeals. It is rare to find well funded
theatres, theatre companies and university drama departments that
focus primarily on the creating of new works of art in theatre.
popular mind, theatre is still Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare and, in
Australia, David Williamson or early works of Arthur Miller, Edward
Albee, Pinter etc. Looking at high profile theatre companies, we
still find major seasons containing replicate productions of
Tennessee Williams with high profile Americans contracted to direct
and thus promote the show. In short, the funded theatre scene reeks
of nostalgic replicas of past artistic achievement. With the
exceptions of Miller, David Mamet and Tennessee Williams, the public
mind is still framed within the English repertoire models. Any drama
teacher will attest to the adoption of English accents by students
when feeling "theatrical" ...
then very exciting to find successful instances of non-replicate
theatre and to see the common grounds of purpose, vision, creativity
and connection with community that such groups possess. Have a look
at such companies in the Trinculo's Shadow News Letter No. 12 which
can be accessed here.
ASTRAY UPON MY HEAD
House PITS' recent
production of GEESE attempted to apply aspects of Artaud's theories.
We focused on the notion of shedding the cultural body in order to
achieve a liberation of the spirit. The relationship between cultural
semantics and rituals with the human psyche was attempted against a
backdrop of radicalism as witnessed in Australia from the 1960s
leftist thinking to the Islamic radicalism identified through the
Bali bombing. By referencing Artaud and the synchronous relationship
to Balinese dance, we hoped to draw at least some association between
Artaud's antagonistic relationship with words and the possibilities
of retraining and re-programming the personal psyche based on a
constant psychological cleansing. In short we need then to focus on
the mythic nature of our art form.
doesn't make any sense, then have a look at the video below and note
particularly the cruelty of the "guttermouth" character and
then his description of words when offered to the incarcerated Simon.
a grave there is evidence of living in a
womb there is potential death ..."
suicide as the ultimate shedding of culture, it is understandable how
those fixated on obliteration of a particular hegemony see one's own
death as the ultimate weapon. Martyrdom has a track record of choice
for those who see no other way to focus opinion and attention on a
particular world view. In GEESE, we see a young radical woman, Eva,
who partnered the young Simon in a pact to focus ultimate attention
to their cause. Reference is made to the Vietnamese monks who used
self immolation as a protest against President Diem's regime in South
Vietnam. The inadequacy of words as a potent force required some
strong action. In the case of Eva, she died. Simon balked at the last
minute and spent the rest of his life attempting to shed his culture
and the tendencies of his inherited DNA.
became an advocate of revolution only in his later years. But he
always saw the need to break through the walls to perception that
were created by any culture. By elevating culture we only elevate
ignorance caused by the shutting out of the other. This element of
most theatre is the core reason for Artaud's veherment attack on
traditional and conventional western theatre forms. By deliberately
creating shocks to perception through a transitory culture that is
inherent in theatre form, we have the potential for awakening human
potential and transcending cultural lock-in.
social experiments in Communist China were a theatre writ large. I
wrote in my previous article on Revolutionary
(SCREAM April 2011) of
the relationship between Mao's thought and that of Artaud. Have a
look at Peter Butz' video of the Eva / Radical girl sequence in
GEESE. Note the relationship between sex and politics and the
lingering nostalgia for a picture of the world to meet a particular
and fabricated model probably just as restrictive as the one needing replacing.
the most difficult part in change is the shedding of everything that
is inside one's memory and psyche. Otherwise, change is determined by
external events and situations that one has little control over; nor
is one actually aware of the hold such external events and situations
actually have over one's decision making. In the case of Simon, his
most devastating attempt at shedding what he once was in order to
become something else, was framed through his relationship with
another dynamic woman who sought the re-awakening of his very ear and
the way the melody of life is actually heard and experienced. This
meant adopting new language and living in unfamiliar and different spaces.
of this sequence will be added here later.
But it is
in the case of his mother's death and his refusal to attend her
funeral that Simon's purging goes further than his attack on culture.
This suggests his defiance of the cosmos. We can see how being an
outsider as a child in a closed culture had a strong motivating
influence on his need to shed so much. We also can sense the death of
something of himself for which he has no explanation.
character who defies cultural precepts, the universe and attempts the
impossible is at the core of Artaud's imploration for theatre. Early
Brecht's theatre saw similar ideas exemplified in BAAL as he toyed
with surrealist influences. In GEESE the crunch comes in this scene
as Simon outlines what is so familiar for most of us; only to turn it
all on its head from being a nostalgic and warming memory to
something that has to be burnt and discarded.
attempted a dialectical relationship here as we then focused on the
mother's lament from her grave. She depicts the pain of feeling her
son ripped from her cultural heritage and not simply through death or leaving.
obviously have a lot more investigation into theatre potential and
its relationship with ideas, society and life. But if we are to be
relevant and not simply promulgating the art of irrelevance and
constantly replicanting past glories, then we need to look at the
mythic nature of our work and stop simply reducing our art form down
to some common denominator about some "relationship"
between very narrowed down characters.
Emperor's New Clothes
the most relevant fairy tale for today's world is The Emperor's
New Clothes. The beauty of the tale is that it creates a central
image we understand immediately. Complexity in our technological age
requires of our theatre that same equivalent: a theatre that can
distill and challenge through the elevating of mythic characters and
situations; a theatre that is above and truly beyond that which is
currently driving the box office.
look at the extended preview of GEESE
are interested in reading the full text of GEESE or wish to consider
mounting your own production, please click on the link here.
photo above depicts Anna Voronoff as the Mother in GEESE
videos feature: Braiden
Dunn as Geese, Jack Spahr as Simon, Alison McGregor as Eva, Anna
Voronoff as Mother, Hanna Cormick as Anais, Carolyn Minchin as Green Music
is by Damien Foley Choreography
by Hanna Cormick Set
Design by Josh Sellick Costumes
by Jessica Fairbairn
by Peter Butz
and directed by Joe Woodward
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