Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395

Artaud lived in a time in which realism was under attack from a number of literary movements. One such movement was surrealism, which stressed dream visions and advocated striking juxtapositions of disparate images. Artaud was active in the surrealist movement but soon broke away from it for political reasons. Most of his critical writings focus on the experimentation with language and on the anarchical nature of poetry. The Theater and Its Double is the culmination of his thinking. In it, he sees theater as the ultimate art form, one that can totally escape language and logic. Unfortunately, Artaud was not able to realize his dreams; his own ventures in theater were dismal failures. His ideas were to come to fruition in the artistic revolution of the 1960’s. His book reads almost like a blueprint for the changes in the avant-garde theater that were to occur more than two decades later. Traditional theater spaces were abandoned, and theater moved into the streets, into churches, into abandoned warehouses, into rock quarries. Partially influenced by Artaud, American director Richard Schechner produced plays in a garage, put the audience in the center of the action, and created multilevel theater spaces. Julian Beck, another American influenced by Artaud, created ritual theater encouraging direct contact with audience members. British director Peter Brook helped organize a company called The Theatre of Cruelty. Its productions experimented with chants, ritual dance, symbolic props, and other techniques proposed by Artaud. During this period, enormous puppets replaced actors, classical plays were rewritten, performance pieces were created without using playwrights, and...

(The entire section contains 395 words.)

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