Drama essay “Theatre has the capacity to transform our perceptions of the world we live in” To what extent is this statement true of two twentieth century theatre practitioners you have studied. The theatre has tremendous capacity to transform our perceptions of the world. Two theatre practitioners who had strong beliefs in this statement were Vsevolod Meyerhold and Augusto Boal. Both Meyerhold and Boal believed that theatre had the power to transform the way we look at the world, each displaying these with different methods and techniques.
Meyerhold rejected Stanislavsky’s theory of naturalism and felt theatre is a place of expression, while Boal placed greater emphasis on his belief that everyone can act. His Theatre examined oppressions in society and how to overcome these oppressions. Meyerhold, from an early age had a keen interest in the theatre. He studied at the Moscow Art theatre, under the famous Stanislavski. He rejected Stanislavsky’s theatre of naturalism, and replaced this with anti-illusionistic theatre.
His theatre style was influenced by several other styles, these included commedia dell arte, Kabuki, Noh theatre and Vaudeville, Meyerhold was influenced by these styles because of their emphasis on Physicality and movement. He liked to simplify and reduce an idea or issue to its barest part. He often did this by looking at a script and judging what needed to be cut or added to it, till it suited his purpose. He used rhythm and music in his performance and saw theatre like a musical score being performed.
He liked precision; to help with this precision he had his actors trained in biomechanical exercises, a range of exercises which help an actor increase control over their physical dexterity. One of these exercises, otherwise known as etudes, is called “the slap”, and involves two actors, standing not to far apart, feet parallel to one another. The exercise then goes through a range of movements that mimic a theatrical slap. The exercise, to be performed properly requires a high level of muscle controlled, physical dexterity, lightness, flow and control. It was for these reasons that Meyerhold admired Charlie Chaplin.
Meyerhold was also a big believer of using the groin his performances. The grotesque in drama terms in when an artist’s attempts to cause the audience to pass from a place which is normal and familiar to another which is unexpected. This was Meyerhold’s, main technique in challenging our perceptions of the world. “The grotesque isn’t anything mysterious. It’s simply a theatrical style which plays sharp contradictions and produces a contestant shift in the planes of perceptions”. With these techniques Meyerhold tries to change and help us remold our views and perceptions of the world.
An excellent example of this would be Meyerholds productions “Government Inspector”. Meyerhold molded this play so that it suited his style of theatre. He changed the script, the movements, the length and the settings, all of which helped him achieve a new meaning. Both Meyerhold and Boal had several philosophies they agreed on, to help change and challenge our perceptions. Although they also differed in several other ways. Boal had more of a mindset that everybody was an actor or spect-actor” he believed that everyone acted in live, and were spect-actors as well, hence the name “spect-actors”.
Boal was concerned with oppressions of society, and how they affected us, and how we, as spect-actors could “act” to change this oppression. Also, Boal was not so concerned with rhythm and physicality, as he was in combating oppression. And watching ourselves as Humans in action. “In the most essential sense, theatre is the capacity possessed by human beings to observe themselves in action”- Boal. Boal like Meyerhold was influenced by influential theatre practitioners, including Brecht and Stanislavski. Due to some hardships he was faced with in his life Boal developed the theatre of the oppressed.
He recognized that oppression could impact severely on individuals and society in general. After his 15 years in exile he had enveloped different “subtypes” of theatre of the oppressed that worked on trying to help human beings see how they could eradicate oppression. Some examples of this type of theatre are called Image Theater, which involves some simple exercises with an aim to uncover truths about societies; second is invisible theatre, in which the audience is unaware that it is watching a scripted piece of theatre.
The third type is forum theatre, in which an audience watches a scene where there is an oppressor who is oppressing a victim. The actors perform the scene once and then repeat it, inviting the audience/spectators to replace the protagonist and stop the oppression. The aim is for the spectators to overcome the oppression, before the play was concluded, to change our perceptions of the world. An in class example of this was Neva’s attempt to stop the oppression, by instantly denying the claims, and agreeing to do more than one thing in the same night, plainly lying to the people, it stopped the ppression, but would cause a much higher conflict after just that night. Through the works of Meyerhold and Boal, we can see that theatre has an enormous capacity to influence, challenge and change our perceptions of our world. Through techniques such as rhythm, physicality, grotesque, and the theater of the oppressed, our normal vies and ideals can be challenged and changed to make our awareness and understanding o our world greater.