Dying Love is the first in
the "To Believe Is To Kill"
series to be created over the coming two years by Joe Woodward and
companions from Shadow House PITS.
Last year we began developing Myths
and Metaphors workshops. Though still incomplete, as artists and
people interested in exploring the invisible binds and ties that make
culture, society and belief systems we are self consciously creating
work that hopes to seep truths through our very self-consciousness
and vanity and hopefully produce small ripples of sanity in our own
psyche. Hopefully by working even as less than a molecule in the art
world, let alone the universe, there can be some infection to counter
the neurosis of belief systems and human kind's need for tunnel
visioned certainty in a drab though vengeful universe.
The theatre is always
metaphor. In Artaud's words, life's "double". It is one
place where it is necessary to be aware of this deception when
creating any work. In Plato's
terms we only see reflections of life and can never fully see
its true form, though we search for it through life, art, science and
philosophy. So as an artist or creator of any kind, we need to be
aware that everything we perceive is probably not as it seems. We can
only approximate and be aware that our perception is limited and
needs constant provocation to re-examine and review our
understanding. The more dogmatic we are, the more likely we are to blunder.
Artaud spoke a lot about shocks and the necessity to jolt
audiences out of complacency. Romantic Artaudians amongst teachers
and idealistic students, like fundamentalist Christians and Muslims,
still display the naive acceptance of flawed theatrical dogma
and thinking whereby the theatre is supposed to try ever
increasing layers of violence or disgusting levels of imagery in
order to achieve some kind of change in the perception of those
immediately infected with the particular creation. In this kind of
paradigm, schlock like the "Saw"
film series and Tarentino's "Hostel"
films (Tarentino's name was associated with them) would qualify as
Artaud influenced works. There was cruelty. There were shocks. But
like in Nero's
circuses, they were to simply satisfy the blood lust of human swine.
Artaud had little interest
in historical materialism or Brecht's epic theatre ideas. He was far
more interested in the guilt and individual psyche of each spectator
in a theatre event. So the traditional wisdom of Artaud's legacy is
that the theatre of cruelty has little relevance in a political theatre.
This point should be
respected, especially as so much political theatre invokes unproven
and unsubstantiated beliefs about political and social organization.
It is often used to blindly prop up the agenda of the political
ideology it serves. The attack on all dogmas and beliefs through
surrealism and nightmarish absurdity is, however, a critical aspect
of Artaud's invocation.
Artaud's anger at so much
smugness that was in society and, particularly American influenced
society, suggested his theatre might be like a pin prick that
deflates the monolith and releases human energy long restrained by an
over reliance on logic and civil restraint used as a tool of
establishment agendas. In this sense, Artaud's thinking was not
opposed to theatre as a change agent in opposition to dominant
imperialism in cultural or political terms. It did however, challenge
any concept or form whereby theatre could advocate one dominant
over-riding political ideal over another. In Artaud's world, human
beings were more base than that.
A synthesis of seemingly
opposite theatre approaches from Antonin Artaud and Bertolt
Brecht can be pivotal in creating theatre that goes right to the
psyche of the audience while also challenging the views of culture
and politics that may be prevalent. The best example I know was Peter
Brook's production of Marat Sade by Peter Weiss. (See samples here
on You Tube). The performance of Ian Richardson as Marat should be
studied by all male aspiring actors because of his stillness, focus
Brook has been attacked by
theatre fundamentalists for opening it up from its nineteenth century
presentation formats. The fact he gave credence to Artaud, Charles
Marowitz, Brecht, Jerzi
Grotowski and other fellow travellers meant he was at odds with
establishments that fed the demands of the "deadly
audiences" of stale productions that tried to outdo each other
as imitations of some past mythical theatre necessity.
Brook is not about changing
audiences. He suggested that "madness lies" in such
attempts. Yet the work is not caged in a vaccuum. All of it resounds
with the nuances of the time. In this sense it is filled with the
dynamics of Brecht's
and Piscator's "Epic" theatre. It is largely freed
from old conventions while also adapted for historical relevance. The
Marat Sade was a good example of this.
To create such a theatre
requires more than trained actors and theatre practitioners. It needs
an attitude of mind that can accept challenge and an openness to
provocation and different viewpoints. From whatever tradition of
cultural development one comes from; whether it be Christian, Muslim,
Humanist/Atheist, Buddhist, Aboriginal or whatever, the artist and
theatre practitioner must be able to accept contradictions,
challenges and be prepared to turn both inwards and outwards.
of Traleg Rinpoche concerning the truism of "belief"
in life and its ultimate necessity especially in relation to delusion
are an example of where the artist or seeker of truth needs at times
to put asside one's belief system in order to accept the other
person's system in order to progress one's knowlege and happiness.
Rather than use MY belief to ATTACK your belief, I can put mine aside
for a while at least in order to go beyond. In doing so, I might come
to understand a new level of existence from which I can both look in
and look out again.
If we move away from
consideration of theatre practitioners and theorists, we might do
worse than to study the work of Joseph
Campbell. Campbell illustrates the concept of god as being
metaphor. Belief is shaped by metaphor. Unfortunately, it is more
often taken or accepted as fact; as historical fact. And here we have
a problem. Whether we have the Rainbow Serpent or a man becoming god
or a burning bush speaking to a prophet, the elements of the story
contain truths that are relevant for any age. The factual
understanding is dependent upon the world view or belief system tied
to a specific time and place. So a flood can be sent by god to wipe
out the world. Even if the world consists only of a fairly narrow
area of geography. The Angel Of Death sent to slaughter
first born children must be an angel serving god's will and not
a terrorist fulfilling the bloody agenda of some faction or other. If
god needed to prove to the world that he was more powerful than the
Egyptians, then this seemed a logical way of doing so!
Belief was enforced through
violence and killing if we take the story as fact. And the problem is
that many still do accept such stories and advice as historical fact.
When metaphor becomes accepted as fact, then it makes sense to kill
for the belief. With god on our side, it makes perfect sense. Our
theatre today provides a vehicle for challenging such thought and
practice. And while each theatre practitioner might challenge the
belief of others, each person must spend time finding the time to
challenge one's own embedded beliefs; many of which are accepted
without even acknowledging their very existence.
Beliefs give rise to world
views, cultural practices, political systems, codes of behaviour and
the means of enforcement. A political theatre which only considers
the systems and codes while neglecting the more deeply held beliefs
and world views will be shallow and probably rank in the area of
transparent "propaganda". This is where the theatre of
Brecht may well benefit from a little of Artaud et al.
And still we have people
teaching and accepting that theatre is simply entertainment providing
an escape from the outside world and so can be judged soley by the
number of bums on seats. From funding bodies to the hordes of
invitees to opening nights, we hear this mantra of "escape".
The key theatrical practitioners of the last hundred years, and
longer if we go back to the Greeks, saw theatre as more than escapism
and vulgar entertainment. Theatre's relationship with culture and
society is far more than a side-show freak show of performing animals
doing tricks for amusement. Yet this is how many of our practitioners
view it. It is surprising to know how many people ostensibly earning
a living from involvement in theatre practice and who do not have the
slightest interest or understanding of higher purpose or even of the
world in which they operate.
So for many people the
aspirations of Shadow House PITS
theatre and other like-minded theatre must be like bedding down with
a stranger. But if that is a bit much, then join us for Theatre In A
Car where you jump into a car with strangers taking you on an intense
ride though love and belief in Dying
Love: reflections of love on the windscreen of a car.
Multicultural Festival Fringe (check out the program here)
6 - 14 Feb 2009