'The Theatre and its Double' by Antonin Artaud (1938)

A selection from 'The Theatre and its Double' by Antonin Artaud (1938).


The theater seemed to me a sort of frozen world.

The contemporary theatre is decadent because it has ... broken away from gravity, from effects that are immediate and painful- in a word, from Danger. ...Because it has broken away from the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry.
How does it happen that in the theatre... everything specifically theatrical, i.e., everything that cannot be expressed in speech, in words, or, if you prefer, everything that is not contained in the dialogue... is left in the background?"
...how does it happen that occidental theatre does not see theater under any other aspect than as a theatre of dialogue? Dialogue- a thing written and spoken- does not belong specifically to the stage, it belongs to books... I say that the stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak.
I saw that this concrete language, intended for the senses and independent of speech, has first to satisfy the senses, that there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language, and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken word.
Everything that occupies the stage, everything that can be manifested and expressed materially on a stage and that is addressed first of all to the senses instead of being addressed primarily to the mind as is the language of words... creating beneath language a subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies.
...to the degree that this language derives from the stage, draws its efficacy from its spontaneous creation on the stage, to the degree that it struggles directly with the stage without passing through words... it is the mise en scene that is the theatre much more than the written and spoken play.
In any case, and I hasten to say it at once, a theatre which subordinates the mise en scene and production i.e., everything in itself that is specifically theatrical, to the text, is a theatre of idiots, madmen, inverts, grammarians, grocers, antipoets and positivits, i.e.., occidentals.