Unreal Nature

November 24, 2018

Salt, Sweat, Noise, Smell

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… A moment later, a few inches away, an attic door creaked open …

This is from The Empty Space by Peter Brook (1968):

… It is always the popular theatre that saves the day. Through the ages it has taken many forms, and there is only one factor that they all have in common — a roughness. Salt, sweat, noise, smell: the theatre that’s not in a theatre, the theatre on carts, on wagons, on trestles, audiences standing, drinking, sitting round tables, audiences joining in, answering back: theatre in back rooms, upstairs rooms, barns; the one-night stands, the torn sheet pinned up across the hall, the battered screen to conceal the quick changes — that one generic term, theatre, covers all this and the sparkling chandeliers too.

… In the luxury of the high-class theatre, everything can be all of a piece: in a rough theatre a bucket will be banged for a battle, flour used to show faces white with fear. The arsenal is limitless: the aside, the placard, the topical reference, the local jokes, the exploiting of accidents, the songs, the dances, the tempo, the noise, the relying on contrasts, the shorthand of exaggeration, the false noses, the stock types, the stuffed bellies.

… If the holy makes a world in which prayer is more real than a belch, in the rough theatre, it is the other way round. The belching, then, is real and prayer would be considered comic. The Rough Theatre has apparently no style, no conventions, no limitations — in practice, it has all three. Just as in life the wearing of old clothes can start as defiance and turn into a posture, so roughness can become an end in itself. The defiant popular theatre man can be so down-to-earth that he forbids his material to fly.

[line break added] He can even deny flight as a possibility, or the heavens as a suitable place to wander. This brings us to the point where Holy Theatre and the Rough Theatre show their true antagonism to one another. The Holy Theatre deals with the invisible and this invisible contains all the hidden impulses of man. The Rough Theatre deals with men’s actions, and because it is down to earth and direct — because it admits wickedness and laughter — the rough and ready seems better than the hollowly holy.

… In a Hamburg garret I once saw a production of Crime and Punishment, and that evening became, before its four-hour stretch was over, one of the most striking theatre experiences I have ever had.

… here, in the attic, when an actor in a chair touching our knees began quietly to say, ‘It was in the year of 18— that a young student, Roman Rodianovitch Raskolnikov … ‘ we were gripped by living theatre.

Gripped. What does that mean? I cannot tell. I only know that these words and soft serious tone of voice conjured something up, somewhere, for us all. We were listeners, children hearing a bedside story yet at the same time adults, fully aware of all that was going on. A moment later, a few inches away, an attic door creaked open and an actor impersonating Raskolnikov appeared, and already we were deep in the drama.

My most recent previous post from Brook’s book is here.




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