Dramaturgs/Playwrights

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Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud was born in Marseille France in 1896 to a very unfortunate family Artuad had 9 siblings but only 2 survived through childhood, at the age of 4 Artaud contracted meningitis which gave Artaud attacks of Severe depression and bad temper for the rest of his days. In and out of sanatoriums thoughout his teenage years Artuad joined the army and was later discharged for sleepwalking. By 1920 Artaud moved to paris and begain to write poetry, all of which were rejected by publishers but oddly received a letter back from one publisher asking to understand Artaud and his disturbed personality. It wasnt until Artuad witnessed a Balinese dancer he began to apply his creativity in the form of Theatre. The Balinese dancer inspired him because of her evoking performance without words, only movement. Artuad pioneered Theatre of Cruelty

The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid.

– Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage (ed. Eric Bentley), Penguin, 1968, p.66 -wikipedia 

Theatre of Cruelty broke down the fourth wall, encouraging the audience to come out of their confort zones and experience extreme discomfort. For Actors it was about embracing their inner beast and Cruelty and evoking them throughout performance. he wanted to engulf and affect the audience Reject form and incite chaos. Artuad also ran the Alfred Jarry theatre which produced the controversial play Ubu rois which recently toured scotland under the name ‘’Ubu the greatest F**karse of them all’’

Artuad is acclaimed as the pioneer of extreme theatre. his most famous work being ‘’a Jet/Spurt of blood’’ a script consisting of less than 20 pages featuring a production which could last hours. ending with the sun turning into a giant vagina bleeding live scorpions over the stage.

Artaud Died in an Asylum in 1948, Believing his walking stick belonged to jesus christ.

Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco was born in Romania in 1909 and died in 1994.

He began his career as a poet and came across playwriting in 1949. At the age of 40, he began to learn English. He was unable the grasp the English language and the only English he did know was from a phrase book. He was intrigued by the phrases and sentences within the phrase book and decided to construct his first play – The bald soprano – using the repetition and senseless phraseology he had come across.

Ionesco became the first member of the influential Theatre of the Absurd. This group of European writers, which Samuel Beckett was also a member of, have greatly influenced future writing and led to much more experimental theatre. Their influence has also lead to theatre with a stronger audience message. The bald soprano, for example, was written in order to make the audience see what they say to one another in a new light.

Ionesco’s plays often have a dream/nightmare mood which is added to with humour of a bizarre and quirky nature. Tragedy and farce are mixed together to create something quite original. Stage directions are often non specific however the feeling of the play is made completely clear to anyone who reads it. For example at the beginning of The bald soprano:

SCENE: A middle-class English interior, with English armchairs. An English evening. Mr. Smith, an Englishman, seated in his English armchair and wearing English slippers, is smoking his English pipe and reading an English newspaper, near an English fire. He is wearing English spectacles and a small gray English mustache. Beside him, in another English armchair, Mrs. Smith, an Englishwoman, is darning some English socks. A long moment of English silence. The English clock strikes 17 English strokes.

Surprised by the success of this production, Ionesco embarked on a career as a writer of what he called ‘anti plays’. He continued to write plays that had a repetitive structure, using multiplying objects (eg, chairs, dinner sets) as a metaphor for life becoming even more absurd. However, this circular motion often gave Ionesco’s plays a pessimistic vibe which was not popular with critics and audiences alike as they were left without a sense of fulfilment. Three notable works from this period being The Chairs, The Lesson and Killing Game.

However, his most renowned work was Rhinoceros in which a virus transforms everyone into savage Rhinos charging about the town. The lead is tempted to join them but in the end decides to stand up and fight!

Rhinoceros has been described as ‘one of the great demonstrations against totalitarianism’ and in 1973 won the Jerusalem Prize for literature that deals with issues of freedom.

In total Ionesco wrote 28 plays, some of which have been in constant performance since 1955. Although many critics thought his work was obscure, he later received international acclaim. And even after his death in 1994 his work continues to influence performance today.

Alan McHugh

Oscar Wilde

Born Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills Wilde, Dublin Ireland, Mother-Jane Francesca Elgee, Also known as "Speranza", she was a revolutionary poet who's work caused riots. His Father Sir William Wilde was a celebrated doctor specialising in eyes and ears. Wilde had 5 siblings,Henry, Emily, Mary, William and Isola.

He excelled in classics and mods at school, was educated at Trinity college before being awarded a scholarship to Magdalen college in Oxford. He then travelled to America to give a series of lectures over the course of a year. In 1884 Oscar married Constance Lloyd with whom he had two children, Vyvyan and Cyrill. Met Lord Alfred Bosie Douglas in 1891 and was later accused by Bosie's Father of being Homosexual which led to a public libel case. The case was eventually dropped by Wilde but the evidence gathered from the case was enough to have him sent to prison on a count of gross indecency. Wilde was made to serve two years hard labour.

After his release Wilde spent his remaining few years wandering through Europe staying with friends and in cheap hotels. Due to a recurring ear infection he contracted meningitis and died in Paris on 30th November 1900.

William Shakespeare

Born in April 1564 in the village of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, Shakespeare was introduced to theatre as a young child by his father, John Shakespeare, who took him to see plays in his town performed by travelling casts.

Between 1585 and 1592 he embarked on a successful acting and writing career in London. He was also part owner of a playing company called the 'Lord Chamberlain's Men' which was later recognised as the 'King's men'.

As a well known playwright and poet, he introduced new approaches and methods within theatre. He transformed the English theatre by expanding possibilities through characterisation, plot, language and genre. An example of his introduction of new approaches is his new take on Soliloquies. He used them to explore characters' minds rather than conveying information about events.

His plays have been of extreme importance in the world of theatre for 400 years and have tested and been appreciated by performers. His earliest work was mainly comedies and histories. He then produced mostly tragedies until 1608 (Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet)and produced romances in his later years.

With his influence unlimited to the theatre, he introduced over 1700 of our common words and phrases including "What's done is done" ; "faint hearted" ; "dead as a doornail".

Today, his work influences and is greatly admired by audiences because of his great understanding of human nature as he gave his characters struggles and traits relatable to real life in which the audience can empathise and relate.

Shakespeare died at the age of 52 April 23rd 1616.