Little Dorrit as ‘Poor Theatre’: Dickens through Grotowski
During the autumn of 1985 I adapted Dickens’s novel Little Dorrit for the stage according to the principles of the ‘Poor Theatre’ created by the great contemporary Polish director, Jerzy Grotowski.1 A little while before we opened our adaptation, I asked the cast if they thought, as I had begun to fear, that the audience might have trouble following our adaptation. ‘Only,’ one of them cheerfully answered, ‘only if they’ve read the novel.’ Readers of Dickens’s great novel may indeed feel some bewilderment, and even animosity, as I outline what we did to Dickens’s text, and why. The novel’s multiple plots we diminished to one story, Arthur Clennam’s. We reduced the novelist’s massive cast to eleven characters, performed by eleven actors and a broom. The broom was Little Dorrit herself, an idea adapted from Grotowski’s staging of the story of Jacob and Rachel in his play Akropolis. All of the speeches did come from Dickens’s text but the speeches were not often given in the play by those who had said them in the novel.
KeywordsPlaying Space Poor Theatre Western Theatre Bell Ring Lower World
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