Avant Garde Theatre, 1892-1992

By Christopher Innes | Go to book overview

12

FROM THE MARGINS TO MAINSTREAM

POPULARIZATION AND PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE

Initially, of course, ‘avant garde’ was synonymous for ‘esoteric’ or ‘incomprehensible’. Despite the (scandalized) public attention attracted by their work, Alfred Jarry and Antonin Artaud remained on the theatrical fringes of their time. Indeed, like Oscar Kokoschka or the dadaists, they consciously chose the role of social outcast as ratifying their counter-culture status, an attitude shared by almost all the members of the movement. But, as we have seen, Jean-Louis Barrault mounted an avant garde takeover of the epitome of establishment theatre; and in some ways his career typifies the avant garde as a whole.

By the 1950s the productions of leading avant garde directors were already being classed as major cultural events. The Shiraz Festival in Persia under the Shah became an avant garde showcase, giving wide publicity to Peter Brook and Eugenio Barba’s Odin Teatret despite the reactionary politics and distant location. Jerzy Grotowski moved rapidly from a tiny back-street stage to world-wide tours in the mid-1960s, and performances at the Edinburgh and Parisian Théâtre des Nations Festivals, as well as at the Cultural Olympics in Mexico. A work like Brook’s Mahabharata was not only produced at the Avignon Festival and on Broadway as well as in Glasgow, but has also been shown around the world on television. In the following generation, the leading avant garde directors gained this sort of public position almost immediately. Robert Wilson’s work—which was also first given international exposure at the Shiraz Festival, always demanded the resources of main-stage theatre, and has been mounted in Paris, Berlin and New York. Ariane Mnouchkine’s stagings of Hélène Cixous’ scripts and of Shakespeare have not only attracted large audiences from all levels of Parisian society, but have also been presented at Festivals in Avignon, Venice, Brussels, Madrid, and at the Los Angeles Olympics. With the exception of those who withdrew from the theatre altogether like Grotowski or the Becks, the whole avant garde has made this transition. It is noticeable that even though there may be

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Avant Garde Theatre, 1892-1992
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Politics of Primitivism 6
  • 3 - Dreams, Archetypes and the Irrational 19
  • 4 - Therapy and Subliminal Theatre 36
  • 5 - Antonin Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty 59
  • 6 - Ritual and Acts of Communion 95
  • 7 - Black Masses and Ceremonies of Negation 108
  • 8 - Myth and Theatre Laboratories 125
  • 9 - Secular Religions and Physical Spirituality 149
  • 10 - Anthropology, Environmental Theatre and Sexual Revolution 167
  • 11 - Interculturalism and Expropriating the Classics 193
  • 12 - From the Margins to Mainstream 214
  • Notes 234
  • Select Bibliography 250
  • Index 255
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