Theatre studies - 'The Connections between Steven Burkoff's work & Artaud'

Like Artaud, Berkoff is very much into stylising and surrealism, finding the dark side of things - Theatre studies - 'The Connections between Steven Burkoff's work & Artaud' introduction. He thinks ‘Realism’ can become deadening, Berkoff very much like Artaud wanted to break away from the norms of Western Theatre. Berkoff believed it was too much like films and soaps. Artaud was much the same he thought the audience was engaged enough and wasn’t ‘affected’ a great deal by the performances.

Berkoff believed that you don’t need anything than more than ‘utter simplicity’, and that the actors are a key role, any set, in the case of Metamorphosis purely mime and no dialogue, or costume will detract from the actual art of acting. Artaud also thought this as he tried to create a language of sounds, exploiting single words to find deeper meanings. We did exercises to explore these miming using only basic sounds. One scenario was a hospital scene where each character used one word, my word for example been head doctor was ‘incision’ I found many more parts of this word that I would of usually. Like ‘in’ obviously, ‘cisssss’ sounds like a drill, ‘sion’ I thought sounded very harsh and I used this when I had to discipline the other doctor.

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Nursery Rhyme – Burkoff’s work tries to act the unthinkable and try and find a Dark side

“Berkoff had rigorous rehearsal demands and a passion for his art; he considers these tensions a unifying force.” This links to Artaud as he used to treat his actors and push them to their outer limits, this is of course written about in ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’. This is also linked to our work in class where we were asked to do very physically demanding things for example – hopping on one leg playing ‘tick’ and we could not rest we had to be pushed to the limits just like Artaud wanted his actors to do. This could also be linked to our Slow motion work; this pushed us physically and mentally as we had to think about being slow, but at the same time making it believable with physcalisation and facial expression. Also partly because Artaud liked to use slow motion as it heightened tension.

Artaud believed there is that ‘animal’ side to everyone it just has to be discovered. Berkoff created a canine character in his one-man show Dog, renamed and performed as Pitbull. In Metamorphosis when a man turns into a beetle progressively through the play, this is shown by the way the actor characterising the movements of a beetle. In class we had to do an exercise where gradually that animal side of us came through, our scenario was a Restaurant, I was a ‘fish’ and as I ate I started to open and close my mouth like a fish breathes, not only did it look like a fish but it also looked like the animal side of a normal person. This is a definite with the use of Animals in people and animal characterisation. Both of these performances used a heavy sense of Symbolism.

The performance where we were groups and we had to try and devise an adventure through a fridge, for this it was decided there would have to be a lot of symbolism. One instance the fridge traveller came across Jelly, to visualise this we thought we would speak with a stutter and wobble from side to side, just to reiterate how ‘wobbly’ jelly is so this would look convincing to the audience.

It appears that both of these men have done remarkable things for theatre and have gone against the traditions of western theatre and tried to open up the audiences mind to different methods and ways of acting.

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