Bertolt Brecht asserted that “Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must also change”. One of the more extreme modes is Theatre of Cruelty, intended to break the false carapace of social interaction and unleash the unadulterated core of reality. It’s for these reasons that The Lincoln Company’s production of Artaud: A Trilogy is simultaneously a pusillanimous success and a brave failure. The trilogy consists of Artaud’s Spurt of Blood, The Seashell and the Clergyman and The Cenci, all performed by a dedicated cast.
The play ostensibly manages to replicate Artaudian surrealism in all its weird intensity. The lascivious priest, salacious centurion, pervert in y-fronts, ‘slutty nurse’ and negligée-clad temptress scream and frott about the stage (or through the audience) like 70s soft-core porn. There’s no narrative, no fourth wall and no discernible method in the madness. In this sense, its a reasonably faithful reproduction. However, therein also lies it’s failure; we’ve seen Caligula, we know of the immorality of priests, we have David Lynch. This content no longer confronts us as a shocking truth. To really work, a new repressed needs to be dug up. Still, this an attempt to bring Artaud back to the stage – and that is brave.