A form of theatre which seeks to communicate to audience a sense of pain ,suffering,and the presence of evil primarily through non verbal means.The term was first used by the surrealist actor Antonin Artaud in his essay Le Theater de la cruaute (1932).
Artaud rejected the western tradition of theatre , whose emphasis upon realism & psychological character study he considered trivial ,hoped to recreate theatre at the more universal level which he found in primitive ritual & oriental drama.Artaud writing is visionary rather than practical ,& no complete body of theory exists behind it.Outside France where he had a strong influence Artaud was little known before the first English translation of his book in 1958.
In the 60’s his ideas were widely discussed & the concept of theatre of cruelty was explored & developed. Theatre of panic was described by Spanish born french dramatist Fernando Arrabal in 1962to describe the kind of ceremonial theatre he favored.The reference to the god pan a deity combining the attributes of rustic vitality , grotesque fun & holy terror & Arrabals concept is a blend of tragedy& a punch -and-judy show of bad taste & refinement of sacrilege & the sacred . He was heavily influenced by the theories of Atraud & put his ideas into practice in a number of plays including ‘The Architect & the Emperor of Assyria(1967) ,and’ And they handcuffed the flowers’ (1969)
Similer ideas are apparent among French Avant Garde, companies.
Source:A.Artaud,The theatre & it’s double,M.Esslin,Artaud(london 1976), R.Hayman(Artaud & after)1977′
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