Artaud stated that ‘theatre is first ritualistic and magical, in other words bound to powers, […] and whose effectiveness is conveyed through gesture, directly linked to the rites of theatre which is the very practice and the expression of a hunger for magical and spiritual manifestations.' (1956 in Schumacher, C. 1989: 123,124). In Islands in the Stream (2004) by physical theatre company Derevo, this idea seemed particularly visible as the production held a dream-like beauty, which was conveyed, on a total level, in order to give the audience what looked like a perfect illusion. Indeed, central to Artaud's principles on ritual theatre is the idea that theatre is a total and absolute performance. It is an experience during which director, performer and spectator, by being pushed to their extremes, are going to surpass their limits.
[...] It does not act on the unconscious but instead asks for lucidity in order to be effective and this is how the recognisable symbols in Islands in the stream are effective. Indeed, Artaud pointed out that the audience will believe in the illusion of theatre on condition they really take it for a dream, not for a servile imitation of reality.' (1993: 65) and it is very clear in the performance that the symbols represented a sort of enchanted reality, which gave the piece a magic quality and gave words ‘something of the significance they have in dreams' (Artaud, A. [...]
[...] This idea is further illustrated in the performance style and costumes which are used in the production. Artaud believed in the magic beauty of the costumes modelled on certain ritualistic patterns' (1970: 70). The costumes in Islands in the Stream worked on a symbolic level as well as well as adding a comic effect, for example with the tennis outfit, the light tower or the swimmer's bonnet. It was also very interesting when a blue sail was pulled out of a performer's costumes. [...]
[...] set design, lighting and sound. Indeed, the stage at the Riverside Studios did have, as Artaud requested, ‘special interior height and depth dimensions' (1970: 74) and although it was a proscenium arch stage, its apparent security was broken. Indeed, the clouds of smoke and lights filled our bodies, as the audience was part of the set, or perhaps represented the shore. The set also enabled the creation of a special world and, as Artaud expressed, was able to ‘speak its own concrete language' (1970: 27). [...]
[...] Bassnett-Mc Guire, S. 1980,'An introduction to theatre semiotics'. In Theatre Quarterly 10 (Summer) p.48. In Whitmore, J Directing postmodern theatre: shaping signification in performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p.90. Carr, E Review of Islands in the Stream by Derevo in The Sunday Herald, pg. un. De Gubernatis, R. ‘Danse engagee: le DV8 se manifeste'. Review for The Cost of Living' by DV8 Physical Theatre. In Le Nouvel Observateur. 23-29 October 2003, p.133. Hayman, R Artaud and After. Oxford: Oxford University [...]
[...] An atmosphere was created out of clouds of smoke and light which covered the entire theatre space, including the audience. The different shades of light were also effective in the sense that they allowed the performers to disappear and resurface in totally different positions and places. Shadows were also used and gave the performers a sense of multiplicity as well as frightening features, as in the scene where a frenetic fury takes hold of the characters and the shadows that appear are larger than usual and create a sense of chaos. [...]
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