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ANTI-THEATRE; OR THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF THERAMENE* CLAUDE AVELINE • [English summary: for French original see p. 281] For how many years now have France and the entire theatre world been talking about the "avant-garde"? And that is the first point which makes it remarkable: the persistence of its label. "Avant-garde," a name evoking audacity, temerity and provocation, is now safely established theatres, embedded in anthologies, and engraved on visiting cards. Anti-theatre, or the mockery of the tragic .... It's not a question of the tragic treated in a comic or farcical manner, as was done so often before, but of the elemental essential tragedy, the source of all tragedies: it is the banality of human life in the midst of the absurdity of the universe, the Question. with no answer, the impossible Possible, the Incommunicability ofhelpless solitude. From the beginning the theatre has presented symbolic characters: the officer and the flag, the judge and the scales, the priest and the cross, the woman and the serpent, etc., symbols indicating a relationship which is positive or negative, but always constant with societies, gods, God. The anti-theatre knows nothing similar. It has arisen from this new philosophy which attempts to shackle each of us to our most profound self (like Pascal, we no longer have to wait to die in order to realize our solitude , it is enough to have slept) in order to have the pleasure ofliberating us. The frantic attempt of the conscious to surrender the unconscious would have no outlet without psycho-analytical interpretation. Antitheatre is bookish; nevertheless, it is absolutely opposed to the author 321 322 CLAUDE AVELINE who, according to some, was its precursor and announced its coming: Pirandello . When Pirandello claimed all imaginable freedoms, when he searched with all possible means and methods to escape from his nightmares and obsessions, his only goal was to believe in and to make believable the things with which he peopled them. The anti-theatre believes in none of these intentions. Obsessed, without the least faith, by the Devil, Evil, original sin, and convinced without the slightest foundation that like a sacred rite it has to present a mystery, a mass, it succeeds in doing exactly the opposite, and too bad for the characters in search of an author if they come across this kind! All available flesh and blood will find itself transformed into vinegar and mouldy crumbs. If only these puppets horrified the public! But the laughter has itself become laughable. Today itjoins a banal form of obvious provocation in complicity with its pseudo-victims, who continue to give themselves up for amazement. As long as the bourgeoisie lives, the theater will follow its tastes, and the theatre of the avant-garde follows like any other, bringing with it the exact dose of attack and violence, that delicious right for which the bourgeois pays at the box office .... But the aggressiveness of anti-theatre does not necessarily consist of swearing and blasphemy; it is also revealed in distortions of speech. Lines of dialogue are forced from between tight lips, each one followed by a silence longer than the speech itself, as if the supreme banality of language were only a transparent curtain hung over ineffable depths. And that gives us a third formula: "anti-language." Now let us wait for the anti-linguistics which will establish its divisions, forms and rules .... I am not joking; this whole question is very painful to me. Finished is the admirable precedence of word over matter, of description over brutal fact. Goodbye Theramene. Hippolyte no longer dies offstage; the monster devours him right in front ofus. Better he should eat him before the curtain goes up, and let us find the unfortunate Hippolyte already in his stomach, dreadfully indigestible (because of his armor). In the same vein we are presented with grandparents stuffed in garbage cans, the classic triangle in urns, an aging woman in shifting sand. Washrooms haven't been empty for a long time; they're now resting places for the dying. None of these "objects" ever plays a role, not even a subordinate one. Their purpose is to compensate for the lack (voluntary...


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pp. 321-324
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