Antonin Artaud’s 1937 apocalyptic journey to Ireland and his writings from that journey form an extraordinary moment of accumulating disintegration and tenacious creativity in his work. After publishing a manifesto prophecy about the catastrophic immediate-future entitled The New Revelations of Being, Artaud abruptly left Paris and travelled to Ireland, remaining there for six weeks and existing without money, travelling first to the isolated island of Inishmore off Ireland’s western coast, then to Galway, and finally to Dublin, where he was arrested as an undesirable alien, beaten by the police, and summarily deported back to France. On his return, he spent nine years in lunatic asylums, including the entire span of the Second World War. During that journey to Ireland Artaud wrote letters to friends in Paris but many of his writings from Ireland were lost, and this book collects all of his surviving letters, drawn together from archives and private collections, together with photographs of the locations he travelled through.
Edited by Stephen Barber. Reviewed by Rebekka Jolley.
Matthew DeCoursey argues that the power of dramatic art is to be found in its bodily, emotional nature. Drawing on recent work in the aesthetics of theatre, he shows that much of the power of theatre can be attributed to a specific range of ideas and techniques, notably including double meaning-making, aesthetic focus and dramatic tension. Finally, the author relates different forms of drama education to different educational results, holding that the conventional improvised forms are neither superior nor inferior to scripted theatre, but merely serve different purposes. Among those educational results discussed are the emancipation sought both by Rancière and by many practitioners of applied theatre, but also curricular areas, including language education.
By Matthew DeCoursey. Reviewed by Alison Reeves.
The Alexander Technique is a specific form of mind/body practice that focuses on improving efficiency through learning and understanding movement and behaviour. Galvanizing Performances applies the teachings of this practice to the performing arts. Through theatre, music, and dance, the contributors, all artists themselves, demonstrate how conscious movement can improve an individual’s art and benefit their general health and wellbeing.
Using specific case examples and in-depth analysis over a range of performance arts, this book supports instruction of effective movement and the Alexander Technique within different artistic disciplines for students and teachers alike.
Edited by Cathy Madden and Kathleen Juhl. Reviewed by Victoria Bianchi.
Exploring Shakespeare’s intellectual interest in placing both characters and audiences in a state of uncertainty, mystery, and doubt, this book interrogates the use of paradox in Shakespeare’s plays and in performance. By adopting this discourse – one in which opposites can co-exist and perspectives can be altered, and one that asks accepted opinions, beliefs, and truths to be reconsidered – Shakespeare used paradox to question love, gender, knowledge, and truth from multiple perspectives. Committed to situating literature within the larger culture, Peter Platt begins by examining the Renaissance culture of paradox in both the classical and Christian traditions. He then looks at selected plays in terms of paradox, including the geographical site of Venice in Othello and The Merchant of Venice, and equity law in The Comedy of Errors, Merchant, and Measure for Measure. Platt also considers the paradoxes of theatre and live performance that were central to Shakespearean drama, such as the duality of the player, the boy-actor and gender, and the play/audience relationship in the Henriad, Hamlet, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. In showing that Shakespeare’s plays create and are created by a culture of paradox, Platt offers an exciting and innovative investigation of Shakespeare’s cognitive and affective power over his audience.
By Peter G. Platt. Reviewed by Farah Ali.
The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick is a vivid description of the eighteenth-century London theatre scene – a time when the theatre took on many of the features of our modern stage. A natural and psychologically based acting style replaced the declamatory style of an earlier age. The theatres were mainly supported by paying audiences, no longer by royal or noble patrons. The press determined the success or failure of a play or a performance. Actors were no longer shunned by polite society, some becoming celebrities in the modern sense.
The dominant figure for thirty years was David Garrick, actor, theatre manager and playwright, who, off the stage, charmed London with his energy, playfulness, and social graces. No less important in defining eighteenth-century theatre were its audiences, who considered themselves full-scale participants in theatrical performances; if they did not care for a play, an actor, or ticket prices, they would loudly make their wishes known, sometimes starting a riot.
This book recounts the lives – and occasionally the scandals – of the actors and theatre managers and weaves them into the larger story of the theatre in this exuberant age, setting the London stage and its leading personalities against the background of the important social, cultural, and economic changes that shaped eighteenth-century Britain.
The Birth of Modern Theatre brings all of this together to describe a moment in history that sowed the seeds of today’s stage.
By Norman S. Poser. Reviewed by Javier Pinon.
In the early seventeenth century, the London stage often portrayed a ruler covertly spying on his subjects. Traditionally deemed ‘Jacobean disguised ruler plays’, these works include Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Marston’s The Malcontent and The Fawn, Middleton’s The Phoenix, and Sharpham’s The Fleer. Commonly dated to the arrival of James I, these plays are typically viewed as synchronic commentaries on the Jacobean regime. Kevin A. Quarmby demonstrates that the disguised ruler motif actually evolved in the 1580s. It emerged from medieval folklore and balladry, Tudor Chronicle history and European tragicomedy. Familiar on the Elizabethan stage, these incognito rulers initially offered light-hearted, romantic entertainment, only to suffer a sinister transformation as England awaited its ageing queen’s demise. The disguised royal had become a dangerously voyeuristic political entity by the time James assumed the throne. Traditional critical perspectives also disregard contemporary theatrical competition. Market demands shaped the repertories. Rivalry among playing companies guaranteed the motif’s ongoing vitality. The disguised ruler’s presence in a play reassured audiences; it also facilitated a subversive exploration of contemporary social and political issues. Gradually, the disguised ruler’s dramatic currency faded, but the figure remained vibrant as an object of parody until the playhouses closed in the 1640s.
By Kevin A Quarmby. Reviewed by Dr. Brian McMahon .
A new approach to actor training by a senior teacher, this illustrated manual shows how to use the body to produce rich, varied and truthful performances. The approach, rooted in the Michael Chekhov Technique, integrates ancient Qigong knowledge with somatic psychology and western actor training methods to identify the links between physical shape, emotion and feeling in performance. Supporting and illustrating the text, extensive practical exercises developed through actor training classes provide techniques to tune and adapt the body in preparation for creative work.
This book will enhance your understanding of the actor’s craft, offering the opportunity to grow and advance your pre-existing skills. Warm ups and sequences of exercises will enable you to implement and fully understand this innovative approach. All of the work can be applied to live and screen performances.
By Amanda Brennan. Reviewed by Naz Yeni.