Theatre of Cruelty



  • A theory of drama proposed by the French director, actor, andwriter Antonin Artaud (1896 - 1948) in his book TheTheatre and its Double (1938). Artaud was a follower of surrealismand sought to combine its theories with elements of Eastern dancedrama to create a violent and ritualistic form of theater. This wasintended to be in direct opposition to the realistic theater of thedominant rationalist culture. His aim was to shock his audiences intoan awareness of basic human nature by releasing feelings usually repressedin conventional society. "tragedy on the stage is not enoughfor me," Artaud once said. "I'm going to bring it intomy life." He was certified insane and confined to psychiatrichospitals from 1937 until 1946, dying of cancer two years after hisrelease. After Artaud's death playwrights such as Jean Genetand Fernando Arrabal, amongst others, experimented with the idea ofa theater of cruelty. Peter Brook's 1964 production of PeterWeiss's Marat/Sade, presented as part of a Theatre of Crueltyseason at the Aldwych Theatre, London, is generally considered thedefinitive application of Artaud's theory.