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Artaud’s theatrical principles

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The presence of 'physical, objective elements perceptible to all'.
    1. The creation of a special world.
    2. Artaud's request for 'brilliant lighting' .
  3. The performance style and costumes which were used in the production.
  4. The primary function of theater.
  5. Conclusion.

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. [...]

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