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THEATRE AND ANTI-THEATRE: New Movements Since Beckett by Ronald Hayman

THEATRE AND ANTI-THEATRE: New Movements Since Beckett


Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press

Contending that ""the development of theatre since Beckett has been more. . . influenced by anti-art atttitudes than has generally been recognized,"" Hayman (Artaud and After) analyzes the work of a few recent playwrights and directors, conferring his greatest approval on those whose work shares the innovative, negative spirit of Artaud (anti-language), Beckett, and Beckett's precursors (Symbolist, Expressionist, Dadaist). Hayman's favorite dramatists are thus nihilistic Ionesco, ""powerfully negative"" Genet, Peter Handke (wordless plays, inaudible plays), and America's playful, eclectic Sam Shepard. Shepard has the best current claim ""to being a poet of the theatre,"" Hayman says, and in all these writers' works, ""strong anti-theatre impulses have clashed with strong theatrical instincts, generating a tension which has produced highly original writing."" Less positive words, however, for Pinter, Albee, and Tom Stoppard: Hayman finds discontinuity in their work, ""mannerism and emotional self-indulgence"" that he links to their lack of revolutionary fervor. As for directors, primary attention is inevitably focused on Peter Brook and Jerzy Grotowski--about whom too much has perhaps already been written, with few fresh sounds from Hayman--plus a brief discussion of the somehow more appealing Joseph Chaikin (The Open Theatre). Throughout, Hayman is better at tracing literary influences and recurring themes than evoking theatrical excitement. And his academic, humorless, play-by-play exigeses, though fairly tight and free of jargon, verge on eloquence only in the chapters on Godot. But the very recent plays here have hardly been studied before, and Hayman provides at least a serious, if dry and narrow, point of departure--assuming you're at all willing to go along with his passion for that ""anti-art"" terminology.