Arrabal’s Theatre of Liberation

  • Claude Schumacher
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


The theatre is the art of the present. This cliché is repeated over and over again and every critic, at some point or other, is quite happy to state this obvious truth as if s/he had just discovered something profound. But, more often than not, the truism is forgotten as soon as uttered and the clever critic goes on to criticise the playwright, play or production under review sub specie aeternitatis. Too often, if not always, the implicit question underlying theatrical criticism is: ‘How does this play compare with Oedipus, or Hamlet, or Phèdre, or… Waiting for Godot?’ Why these eternal touchstones? Because they are ‘masterpieces that will speak to all wo/men for all eternity’. In other words, what turns a play into a masterpiece is its degree of abstraction, its timelessness. Yet another cliché proclaims that theatre is, par excellence, the art of physical presence. Since Artaud was ‘discovered’ by, mainly, non-practising theatre scholars in the 1960s (some twenty years after the poet’s death), statements like the following are being repeated ad nauseam: ‘I maintain the stage is a tangible, physical place that needs to be filled and it ought to be allowed to speak its own concrete language’,2 or the theatre must provide ‘the audience with truthful distillations of dreams where its taste for crime, its erotic obsessions, its savageness, its fantasies, even its cannibalism’ can be satisfied.3


Childish Soldier Political Prisoner Solitary Confinement Obvious Truth Agent Provocateur 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    Christine Fouche, in Réforme, 18 March 1972, reviewing Bella Ciao.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Artaud on Theatre, ed. by Claude Schumacher (London: Methuen, 1988), p. 92.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    See Danièle de Ruyter-Tognotti, De la prison à l’exil (Paris: Nizet, 1986).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    See Claude Schumacher, ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’, in Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism, ed. Martin Coyle et al. (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 464–74.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    All quotations refer either to Arrabal, Plays, volumes 1 to 4 (London: Calder and Boyars, 1962–75)Google Scholar
  6. or to Arrabal, Théâtre, vols i–xvi (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1968–) unless otherwise stated.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Angel Berenguer, L’Exil et la cérémonie (Paris: Union générale d’édition, 1977) p. 228: “The society which engulfs Maurice is totally artificial, as artificial as the religion, the peace and the harmony which François offers her son.”Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Quoted in Françoise Raymond-Mundschau, Arrabal, Classiques du XXe siècle (Paris: Éditions universitaires, 1972) p. 23.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    See Fernando Arrabal, Le Panique, Union générale d’éditions, 18 October 1973, ‘L’Homme panique’, pp. 37–53.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    and David Whitton, Stage Directors in Modem France (Manchester University Press, 1987) pp. 163–70Google Scholar
  11. 21.
    The title comes from Lorca’s poem ‘Poeta en Nueva York’: Tos interminables trenes de sangre/y los trenes de rosa maniatadas’ (in Lorca, Obras complétas (Madrid, 1969) p. 515).Google Scholar
  12. 24.
    Arthur Husk, ‘The Flight from Childhood’, unpublished MA dissertation, University of Glasgow, 1975, p. 68.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    See Albert Chesneau and Angel Berenguer, Plaidoyer pour une différence — Entretiens avec Arrabal (Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 1978) p. 39.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    See Gordon Armstrong, ‘“A Less Conscious Art”: Samuel Beckett and Scenic Art in the Eighties’, in 40 years of mise en scène, edited by C. Schumacher (Dundee: Lochee Publications, 1986) pp. 111–25.Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    Arrabal, in an interview with Odette Asian (21 June 1966) quoted in David Whitton, ‘Écriture dramatique et écriture scénique’, Theatre Research International, vol. VI, no. 2 (Spring 1981) p. 133.Google Scholar
  16. 30.
    Alain Schifres, Entretiens avec Arrabal (Paris, 1969) p. 78 (quoted in Whitton, op. cit.).Google Scholar

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© The Editorial Board, Lumière Cooperative Press Ltd 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude Schumacher

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