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Antonin Artaud's Theater of Cruelty Techniques

Antonin Artaud's theater of cruelty techniques are springboards for the director's imagination. His theories, based in part on Cambodian and Balinese dance, extol a form of "total theater," where visual images, gesture, light, sound, and noise take precedence over the written or spoken word. This potent combination is used to disturb the subconscious of the audience and kindle their imaginations. These images are often shocking, but as Artaud explains, "We are not free, and the sky can still fall on our heads; and the theater exists to remind us of this fact" (Artaud 79).

Alfred Jarry's King Ubu displays "the spirit of profound anarchy which is the root of all poetry" (Artaud 42), and this can be seen in Act IV of the play as Pa Ubu states,

We'll stay on top of this hill and we'll not be so silly as to venture down. I shall remain in your midst like an animated citadel, and the rest of you will gravitate around me. I recommend you to load your rifles with as many bullets as they will hold, since eight bullets can kill eight Russians and that's just so many more I won't have on my back (Jarry 54).

Artaud makes clear his own view of language when he writes,

To make metaphysics out of a spoken language is to make the language express what it does not ordinarily express; to make use of it in a new, exceptional, and unaccustomed fashion; to reveal its possibilities for producing physical shock; to divide and distribute it actively in space; to deal with intonations in an absolutely concrete manner, restoring their power to shatter as well as to manifest something; to turn against language and its basely utilitarian, one could say alimentary, sources, against its trapped-beast origins; and finally, to consider language as the form of incantation (Artaud 46).

The language in Ubu Roi tests the limits of language in much this way.

Artaud's "objective unforeseen" is a perfect directorial device for King Ubu. Fabric...

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