Monday, 22 May 2017

Political and Individual Tragedies...

The problem of political theatre is that it is, almost by definition, partisan. The danger that its content will overpower its expression undermines the vision of the playwright or the ability of the audience to interpret against the grain of the production.

Georg Lukacs (On the Sociology of Theatre, 1909 and translated 1965) claims that 'modern drama is bourgeois drama' and traces its development from the German playwrights of the eighteenth century. Before then, he says, the playwright relied on 'the common bond of religion' to connect to his audience. The bourgeois drama, however, foregrounds rationalism and an environmental determinism, as well as an interest in a variety of social classes. Shakespeare, by contrast, only wrote of an aristocratic class, with the commoners reserved for the occasional bout of comedic fun.

Lukacs sees the coming of the bourgeois drama as a radical shift: Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, the neo-classical theatre, Passion plays and, presumably, the street theatres and circus traditions of which he does not speak are all gathered under a vague, pre-enlightenment rubric in which religious sensibility trumps theatrical form.

Historicism - a resistance to the abstract? A preoccupation with time and space and their specifics. A form of relativism? A challenge to a rationalism that forms absolute foundations?

Where is the line between 'individualism' amd 'bourgeois'? Are they not expressions of a similar impulse?

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