Monday, April 2, 2007

on being grabbed

While browsing through the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) I found this amusing bit in a review by Eric Griffiths of The Dakh Centre's Macbeth:

In the history of theatre, discourse and gesture, voice and body have long squabbled over which is to be master. After the verbose bingeing of Ibsen and Shaw, many in the early twentieth century had reason to want to cut back on the ruminative cackle, There was also a yearning for a theatre that would be in some sense sacred, where that sacrality rarely had links with any beliefs shared between executants and onlookers, consisting rather of going through some ritualistic motions unrelated to a known or comprehensible rite. Artaud is the name to conjure within this irrational vicinity. It is a name invoked by the Dakh Centre group with their enthussiasm for "the atmosphere of almost a prayer ecstasy" which "involves one into the upper boundless spheres of unconsciousness", and by Pippo Delbono who believes "as Artaud says, that theatre is like the plague; it has to grab you by the eyes, the nose, the mouth, all the senses". Let's not be partisan about the desirability of being grabbed; sometimes one is just not in the mood, not even at the theatre. I feel sure Shakespeare too felt this ambivalenceabout grabbing, for his plays constantly and unpredicatably negotiate between the enthralling and the cooly self-conscious; they know we do not want only to be "involved" in a performance but also now and again to step aside from it. "Stepping aside" is, after all, a root meaning and an integral element of "ecstasy". Withdrawal from the rush of sensation and event is partly what all that poetry is there for in his plays; it offers an experience of aloofness, an aloofness in experience, which is missing from the theatre of relentless stimulus.

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