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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 18 | volume IV | January, 2001



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 18January, 2001
Theatre Theory

Interaction of Languages in Asian Theatre

p. 1
Vladimir Martinovski

    Since earliest times, artists from various cradles of civilisation, driven by the pristine urge for “a meeting with the Other”, showed an interest for intercultural communication and dialogue. For European theatre creators and theoreticians, such an encounter with Asian theatre tradition, comprehended in its entire cultural, historical, and esthetic dimension has always been a real opportunity not only for re-examination of their own paths, development lines and concepts but also for “meditation” on a global plan about the greatest enigmas of dramatic art.
    In this context, it is nearly impossible to describe the eruptive feeling of “revelation” that spread in cultural public throughout Europe, when in 1789 there appeared the first translation of the play Sakuntala by Kalidasa, the greatest playwright of “the golden age” of classical Indian theatre. The gigantic aesthetic attainments of this play were the main reason for which the epithet “Indian Shakespeare” was immediately attributed to this author from the 4th century. Also, it is impossible not to emphasise the fascination with the theatre language of the various dramatic forms from the Orient, which would play one of the key parts in the establishment of the artistic horizons and in the works of numerous European theatre moving forces of the XX century: from Antonen Arto to Jean Jeunet, from Marx Rheinhardt to Bertolt Brecht, from Julien Becq to Peter Brooke, from Jerzji Grotovsky to Eugenio Barba.
    In this sense, a question arises: what made these giants of modern “western” theatre deeply bow and express unreserved, exalted reverence towards the different forms of Asian theatre? If we try to search for one of the possible answers in the book by A. Arto Theatre and Its Double (1938), which, according to Jean Louis Barrot, is “without saying the most important thing written for XX century theatre”, it will be immediately noticed that his vision of “the ideal” theatre of the future is in an essential correlation with the fundamental aesthetic features of Asian drama and theatre. Being against “the dictatorship and tyranny of verbal speech” on scene, typical of western theatre, and being in favour of a new “metaphysical” scenic language, Arto dreams of a theatre “that makes use of all languages: of movements, sounds, fire, exclamations, gestures, and positions having ideographic values (…), theatre found in that moment when the spirit needs a language to express itself”. Just due to this, Arto “recognises” his dream in a performance of

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