Established in the 1970’s, the Theatre of the Absurd stated itself to be of, by and for the people engaged in the struggle for liberation. It refers to a literary movement in drama popular throughout Europe. Originating from post-world war two, it was written largely by European writers dating back to the 1950s. It was largely influenced by the political turmoil, scientific breakthrough, and social upheaval that were going on in the world at the time. The atrocities of WWII are considered influential events to the movement, highlighting the precariousness of human existence. Laughter and fantasy were a few of the many tools utilized to satirize our absurd world.
The absurd stands for that which is devoid of purpose. It is theatre that seeks to represent the absurdity of human existence in a meaningless universe by bizarre or fantastical means. It is drama that utilizes the abandonment of conventional dramatic form; in order to portray the futility of human struggle in a senseless world. The Theatre of the Absurd uses distorted, abstract or illogical speech as it focuses on the philosophies of existentialism, frequently discussing the meaning behind human existence and the purpose of life. These stories are repeatedly based on a world without meaning, or the actors being controlled as puppets by outside forces.
It uses dark humor, with the use of repetitive actions, cynical plots and parodies with attempts to dismiss reality. Absurdist works rarely follow a clear plot, and what action occurs serves only to heighten the sense that characters (and human beings in general) are mere victims of unknown, arbitrary forces beyond their control. Dialogue is often redundant, setting and passage of time within the play unclear, and characters express frustration, confusion, fury or resignation with deep, philosophical questions, such as the meaning of life and death and the existence of God. The absurdists suggest that life is so illogical, just trying to make sense of it is absurd.
These playwrights adhered to the theories of French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus, in particular his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, published in 1942. In this essay, Camus introduced his Philosophy of the Absurd, in which he argues that man’s quest for meaning and truth is a futile endeavour; he compares man’s struggle to understand the world and the meaning of life to Sisyphus, a famous figure in Greek Mythology condemned to an existence of rolling a heavy stone up a mountain only to watch it roll to the bottom. The plays of Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, and Eugene Ionesco have been performed with astonishing success in France, Germany, Scandinavia, and the English-speaking countries. This reception is all the more puzzling when one considers that the audiences concerned were amused by and applauded these plays; whilst being fully aware that they could not understand what they meant or what their authors were driving at.A few key elements in absurdists performances were that plays categorized in this movement typically represent human existence as nonsensical and often chaotic. Additionally, absurdist works rarely follow a clear plot, and whatever little action occurs, serves only to heighten the sense that characters (and human beings in general) are mere victims of unknown, arbitrary forces beyond their control. Thirdly, dialogue is often redundant; and lastly, the setting and passage of time within the play unclear.Samuel Barclay Becket was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in Paris for most of his adult life.
He wrote in both English and French and is considered one of the last modernist writers. He was also one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the Theatre of the Absurd. Beckett’s work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human existence, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour. Early on, he realized his writing had to be subjective, coming from his personal beliefs and experiences. He became increasingly minimalist in his later career but his work always served to break conventional boundaries through the form of setting in order to display characters and objects from an unexpected perspective.In one his most famous works – Act Without Words, Becket was possibly depicting the correlation of one’s various materialistic wants and their inability to achieve it. This often leaves them completely restless and unsatisfied.
His work could also be interpreted as an impossibility of escaping fate. The mime presents a number of possible interpretations – and this makes a statement in itself. The piece provides his audience with the illusion of choice, reflecting how every opportunity is a possibility; but nothing is real.
His work is filled with allusions to other writers. Beckett’s plays are not written along traditional lines with conventional plot and time and place references. Instead, he focuses on essential elements of the human condition in dark, humorous ways.He is best known for a piece called Waiting for Godot – his most controversial work so far.
The characters of the play are strange caricatures with difficulty communicating the simplest of concepts to one another as they bide their time awaiting the arrival of Godot. The language they use is often ludicrous. Following the cyclical patter, the play seems to end in precisely the same condition it began, with no absolutely real change having occurred. In fact, Waiting for Godot is sometimes referred to as the play where nothing happens. Reflect upon how each form distorts, abstracts or blends space and time to mislead the audienceInvisible Theatre attempts to ‘distort’ a viewer’s perception of space and time as it’s purpose is to mislead the audience into believe the performance enacted was their real life. It is an extremely abstract form of theatre, because the spectators are unaware of the existence of the performance itself.It uses the surrounding areas as a stage, unlike methodical theatre, usually set on a in an auditorium with an audience watching the performance. Invisible Theatre misleads the viewer into believing the rehearsed event was a daily example of social injustice.
The performers are required to be more aware than ever of the space in which they are performing. They have to keep in mind the audience and judge their responses accordingly. Each actor and unwitting audience often leaves the situation feeling a tangled mess of emotions. This distorts their perceptions toward the incident that just occurred – as after they react, they often reconsider their response as they can analyse how helpful it was by reflecting upon the situation. A vital aspect of Invisible Theatre is the audience’s participation. The element of spontaneity and unexpectedness blends interactions between the audience and spectators was natural, and what was scripted.
Conversely, the Theatre of the Absurd adopts usage of abstract imagery and ideals. This is done in an attempt to ridicule common notions, effectually blending what is commonly accepted as the purpose of the human life with existentialism. Absurd Theatre came into being around post WWII times. The harsh realities of everyday life and the terse political and social atmosphere played an important role in sparking the concept of this kind of theatre. It is a prime example of how a distorted cultural climate in society can influence its citizens.
Absurd Theatre serves to feature the absurdity of human nature through extremely repetitive, disjointed, meaningless or confusing situations. Absurd Theatre has plots lacking logical and realistic development; depicted through highly distorted speech and dialogue.