Artaud, theoretical variety of each of those elements was

Artaud, in his fourth letter on language, sets up a compelling argument that the textual and connotative language has come to dominate the occidental theatrical form and that it’s competitor, subtextual communication, has been left out a realist theatre that has become too clinical and reliant on the limiting defined words of texts. This argument forms the basis of his manifesto of Cruel Theatre. Brecht similarly, forges his argument for a new theatrical language while lashing out against the populist operatic form. By both their times the language of theatre had seen a great evolution along with that of language in general, for nearly 2000 years, since Aristotle declared that he was unsure if the tragic form was all it needed to be in its developmental elements. (Gerould 49) But how were these new languages, these new evolutions of theatrical rules coalesced some thirty years after their writing by playwright Peter Weiss to create an imaginative, disturbing, and politically moving play that director Peter Brook called, “a mixture of all the best theatrical ingredients around?” (Weiss vi) Further, what are those ingredients? In the following I will be assessing the elements of plot, character, theme, language, rhythm, and spectacle; and what theoretical variety of each of those elements was employed in the Weiss’ play in both the internal French Revolution plot and the external Charenton plot, and looking at how Aristotelian, Brechtian, and Artaudian methods and preferences intersect in them. Plot – The arrangement of events as presented on the stageAristotelian plots are typically made up of clearly defined complications for characters to resolve. While I’m not convinced that Weiss emulates this, by nature of his Brechtian tendencies does blend other Aristotelian plot requirements. Plot, all stage action, is classified separately from Story which is the chronological detailing of events, including prologues and epilogues that happened on and off stage and gives the plot its context.  We are not given the whole of Marat’s story and the average audience-goer would need to brush up on their French revolutionary history to understand his importance, Corday’s motivations for assassinating him, the historical fallout of the murder, the connection between Marat and the Marquis de Sade. Expository or narrative dialogue establishes events occurring off stage. Weiss does employ songs and dances to introduce main plot points, as seen with Charlotte Corday’s arrival in Paris. The credible and astonishing nature that Aristotle recommends is also fulfilled, chiefly by use of the historic plot that embodies the ‘historification’/ ‘historicization’ Brecht defined as the technique of setting the action of a play in the past to draw parallels with contemporary events, enabling spectators to view the events of the play with emotional detachment and garner a thinking response. That is what Weiss manages to accomplish for his Vietnam conflict era audience. Brechtian epic plays employed a large narrative as opposed to a smaller plot, spanning many locations and time frames. Marat/Sade interestingly both does and does not do this. In the play within a play, the Parisian squares and Marat’s home are presented…within the “real” setting of the Charenton Asylum, sometime during de Sade’s second imprisonment, probably between 1803 and 1809 (when state police orders forced de Sade into solitary confinement and suspended all of the theatrical activity that had been encouraged by the asylum’s director Coulmier. The society being presented in the play, not individual character’s events, was a Brechtian focus and often are related from the viewpoint of a single storyteller (alienation effect). While the story in Marat/Sade is not told from the Herald’s point of view, the character does become an agent of the Brechtian alienation effect, narrating the scene for the audiences basest understanding and objectifying the scenes, arguing with Coulmier when the proceedings get out of hand, and restoring a simmering order to the presentation. Weiss employs that same objectification by The Herald numerous times when ‘the play,’ gets out of hand and Coulmier demands a stop to the performance, chiefly because it hits too close to home. Brecht typically crushed the Aristotelian based, neoclassical ideal of the three unities of time, place and action (one location, single day) Weiss absolutely crushes the Aristotelian/Neoclassical rules for unity of time, place, and action, utilizing the play-within-a-play structure to double all three elements simultaneously. The theatrical space doubles as the asylum, but also as the streets of Paris and Marat’s home. The time both a fictional point between 1803 and 1809 during de Sade’s imprisonment and certain days in July of 1793 during the assassination and its attempts. The action is doubled as the asylum patients also play the historical figures. And yet, in doing this Weiss embraces the returned to the Artaudian/Aristotelian ideal that aims to appeal to, and release the emotions of, the audience. No doubt conjuring, pity for Marat who is killed while already writhing in pain, and Corday who is either met with ire or commendation depending on if you view her actions as ultimately merciful to a suffering old man. Character – The agents of the plotSince the time of Aristotle, characters have been the agents of building up and supply the reason and rationale for the events of the plot. Evocative, colorful characters face and prevail over obstructions that we can recognize, providing a vehicle for conflict. In Weiss’ double plot, it is both. Internally, Corday’s wants to kill the radical Jacobin Marat who has opposed her Girondin sympathies. Marat’s wants to live as comfortably as possible in his painful condition while still contributing to the extreme Jacobin cause. Externally, the characters become less defined by their obstacles and more representational of their social status and the commentary contained within that representation becomes the message. Weiss gives us a mix of presentational and representational acting modes, the actor was never to fully become the character, as in the realistic/naturalistic theatre, the actor was asked to demonstrate the character at arm’s length with a sense of detachment. That detachment is further spawned by the archetyping of characters for supporting roles. Typical of the Brechtian mode, while some of the characters, particularly the leads are sometimes complex, historical, real-life characters, some (but not all) character names are generic: The Four Singers, The Patients, The Herald, The Five Musicians, The Male Nurses, The Sisters, and to an extent Coulmier’s Wife and Daughter and they tend to be somewhat oversimplified and stereotyped, as opposed to the more Artaudian method of not giving particular emphasis to individual characters. The movement and gesture that defines characters, however, is a shared point of interest between both modes. Brecht and Artaud both relied heavily on gesture and movement, mixes of realistic and non-realistic movement – movement that is at times graceful, but at other times forceful. Brecht uses the Latin word ‘gestus’ to describe both individual gestures and whole body postures that denote social attitude and human relationships with others, groups of characters often positioned on the stage for functional and not aesthetic reasons, with characters grouped according to their social relationships in the play. Theme – The reason the playwright wrote the play Aristotelian themes fluctuated between the didactic and the colloquial realism of everyday life, and in the bigger picture was concerned with the examination of the patterns of life. Brecht’s modes were didactic and aimed to teach or instruct their audience, Brecht preferred to call the audience ‘spectators’, social activist theatre wanting the spectators to make change in their own world outside the theatre walls. While Artaud demanded that his themes aimed to appeal to, and release the emotions of, the audience with his spectacle-heavy elements combined to seemingly evoke latent dreamlike images of our minds. Weiss chooses to switch between the didactic and dreamy (if not deluded) slice of life of the patients in the external plot and the historical figures of the internal plot and sometimes combines the two by choosing a setting, story, and characters that contribute to both: the reality of the asylum patients that might have been recruited for plays and the goings-on for Marat in his last days. And yet, the piece appeals to the irrational mind, one not conditioned by society’s norm of theatre with a singular liminal structure while expressing an enhanced double of real life, mirror not that of everyday life, but the “reality of the extraordinary.”Language – Evocative characters facing and overcoming relatable obstacles need to express themselves in intensified language…Weiss’ dramatic dialogue consists of both Aristotelian specified narrative and dramatic but goes further embracing Brechtian direct address by actors/characters to the audience at some points as a strong and unconventional technique used by performers, direct address broke the (invisible) ‘fourth wall,’ and crushing traditional realistic/naturalistic conventions. As stated, its use of gesture and movement to define character extends to the verbal, incorporating  Artaudian non-verbal) language, for other parts with the particularities and interpretation of specific utterances left up to the actor, and emphasis on the written or spoken text, significantly reduced. In numerous versions, in most Artaudian manner, there have been instances of text being improvised, restructured, or omitted altogether and Weiss takes his idea of text as “written poetry” literally, with much of the play in verse.Rhythm – The heart of the playFor Artaud, agreed with the Aristotelian idea that rhythm generated the overall mood and played an important part in creating the impelling force of the play leading to a final climax and Denouement, but once again Brecht’s specificity on the matter wins out, in general, and for Weiss. Marat/Sade features distinctly Brechtian episodic, self contained scenes within the play, that contribute to a non-linear, somewhat fractured plot, where the events of an episode are not necessarily a result of the preceding episode (when read), creating a montage effect employing multiple locations and time frames, that switch in and out of one another. Aristotle was particularly adamant that plot should have a building rhythm and Weiss achieves this, as Brecht wrote his plays with no act or scene divisions; these were added later, long scenes told the main events of the story and were interspersed with occasional short scenes, short(er) scenes normally involved parables, used to emotionally detach the audience marginally, parable scenes often involved the use of song, an alienation device employed by Brecht to help deliver the message of the play. Spectacle – Everything that is seen or heard on stageThis is perhaps where Weiss, along with Brecht and Artaud abandon the classical rules the most and by nature of their visual-centric ideals have the most to contribute. By the time of the post-realist movement, spectacle – the visual and auditory qualities of the theatrical stage objects and actors, had been admitted as an integral part of dramatics, while Aristotle held that it was the least important element. They, of course, set out their methods and Weiss used them as them as he saw fit. Brechtian costume was identifiable as being generally unidentifiable for the individuals as Weiss’ mental patients and staff are generally outfitted in asylum scrubs medical garb with only accessories to denote their internal plot characters doubly and constantly identifying the character’s role and function in the society of the external plot. The sets as described (and those executed in the 1967 film version) are fluctuating and fragmentary (either partial sets or one object representing many of the same) at other times sets were industrial eg. ramps, treadmills. Some makeup and mask use particularly with the pierrot-ish singers, but non-realistic and ‘theatrical’ eg. grotesque and/or caricatured, makeup and costume used to depict a character’s social role in the play, not that of his/her everyday appearance. Some productions have used signs/placards used to show the audience a range of information, screen projection used to reinforce play’s theme/s (to garner an intellectual response, not emotional). In Peter Brook’s 1967 film version (as suggested by Weiss’ script), does use the open white natural light common to Brechtian form (as colour would generate an emotional response from the audience), allowing for the spectators and performers to share a single same-lit space, lighting instruments in full view of audience with no attempt to hide them, but rather remind the audience they are watching a play. The traditional proscenium arch is not specified in Weiss’ script and can either be kept or done away with, further “pulling back the veil,” of the production and allowing for variety in the spaces the piece can be performed in. Curtaining is a small part of the set, “fixed to each side of the framework before the platform (upstage) and can be pulled when the patients are to be hidden,” in Brechtian fashion allowing for disambiguation between the external and internal plot, but not between the audience and the actors. And yet, “cruel,” “total theatre,” that is full of spectacle is not lost on the piece. In the external plot, Coulmier is incensed more than once to nearly stop the performance as it builds to riotous or dangerous tension and possible physical threat to his wife and daughter. It has been noted in many reviews, that some productions incorporate the actual audience in their ridicule. Quentin Letts recounts in his 2011 review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production, that, “audience members were humiliated (a man in the second row of the stalls, having been relieved of a pound by a ‘beggar’ from the cast, was screamed at for being a ‘motherfucker’.” (Letts)  By bombarding the audience’s senses, they actors playing Columier’s wife and daughter get to act the experience of emotional release and at points, terror and the actual audience experiences it when exposed to the total plot. Arguably, the same intersection of character that I described earlier contributes to an intersection of Brechtian and Artaudian modes of spectacle because both refute the textual so much and rely on the visual of their characters. Weiss picks up on this and at many points, the piece relies heavily on facial expression and movement standing for ideas and attitudes of mind, movement that often creates violent or disturbing images on stage or leaves the violent images were to occur in the minds of the audience. The relationship between the actor and audience in the Theatre of Cruelty is intimate, and so it is in Marat/Sade with the preference for actors to perform around the audience in the center (rectangle/ring/boundary), attempting to reduce or eliminate the disambiguated performance space set aside for the actors. Many Artaudian works, very much like Marat/Sade arrange performers in four corners or on four sides of the space placing the audience in a weaker, less powerful position, encircled by actors, seemingly trapping them. While the internal plot employs this technique for Coulmier and his family, it is worth noting that many productions have played the script in a theatre-in-the-round set up or in devised spaces where the actual audience is surrounded by the actors, abandoning the Brechtian tendency towards conserving the proscenium, emphasizing light and sound in performances, the audience’s senses were assaulted with movement, light, and sound (hence ‘cruelty’). Very often throughout the script and in various interpretations sound is often loud, piercing, and hypnotizing for the audience. Music and sound – voice, instrument, and recorded, often accompany stage movement or dialogue. Flooded light and pinpointed, more directed light, color, and costume add theatrical effect. It’s worth noting that Artaud preferred to dismiss modern costumes, as Weiss specifically outlines, “breeches,” cuffed shirts, buckled shoes, conventional nunnery headwraps, “empire cut” dresses, “ribboned hats,” “monk’s robes,” and “primitive costumes.” (Weiss vvii-x) Emphatically, using spectacle and sensation, Artaud wanted his theatre to hypnotise its audience and so it seems that Weiss did too.ConclusionUltimately, the language of theatre evolves as does any language. There is a rarely conscious etymology happening, what develops is of necessity. The form and substance are shaped by semantics.  Their methods, seemingly so opposed in their varieties, not only intersect many times, but also crosscut elements of the classicist modes they sought to eradicate or found useless. Audience catharsis is repackaged by both Brecht and Artaud and by every playwright in the last 2000 years. Essentially, all stories are parable and carry a message for the audience to take away. Aristotle thought that the best dramas displayed the possible outcomes of contemptible or worthless choices. Brecht wanted another venue to exude the tenets of Marxism. And, Artaud wanted to return the spontaneous response back to the audience. Audience response or ‘storylistening’ is generally predictable for the average writer but is ultimately in the hands of “other,” outside of the playwright – so, it is storytelling that becomes the tool with which to shape and give thought to how we ought to be, and that’s true from our earliest fairy tales to Gravity’s Rainbow. The didacticism of plot can be simple, but it is always there. ReduxWhat is truly terrifying is the removal by current administrations in developed worlds over the past three decades or so that would have us believe an eroding of the relationship between the theatrical form and the society. Theatre in a post-modern capitalist mode is, first, an inconsequential luxury – first on the chopping block of austerity should the powers that be see fit and a form too sophisticated for most of the masses to understand or indeed care about. Second, in its forgettable position as “just art”, it has been weakened partially by that anti-sophist attitude and partially by the acceleration of information we have stumbled into in the 21st century, that has made spheres of knowledge one in the same with spheres of experience. Theatre, tragically, pun intended, is no longer consequential or dangerous because to be a part of functioning society, a larger cultural knowledge outside of your own interest is no longer required.  The playwright is not expected to be knowledged in the political or the social and further is not expected to have anything of consequence to say or convey through their work about it. Power has been struck from our hallowed form.