|preceded by Modernism|
Postmodern theatre is a recent phenomenon in world theatre, coming as it does out of the postmodern philosophy that originated in Europe in the 1960s. Postmodern Theatre emerged as a reaction against Modernist Theatre, and its trappings of strict style and didacticism. Postmodern Theatre is based on the idea that there is no Grand Narrative or Ultimate Truth. Most postmodern productions are centered around highlighting the fallability of the "truths" which are held as definite, more precisely, Grand Narratives ("Truths") are deconstructed in order for the audience to reach their own individual understanding. Essentially, this process of deconstruction raises questions rather than attempting to supply answers. For instance; Sam Shepard, in his Pulitzer winning play "Buried Child", deconstructs the idea of the American Dream and leaves the audience with their own interpretation of the American Dream's fallability and future.
As a reaction against Modernism, Postmodern Theatre deconstructs the axioms of genre and style and has no rigid structure, style or genre, which is perhaps its only other defining feature along with the deconstrucion of Grand Narratives.
Despite its rejection of genre and style a Postmodern theatrical production might make use of some or all of the following techniques:
- There is a deconstruction of Grand Narrative or Ultimate Truth. The accepted norms of seeing and representing the world are challenged and disregarded, while experimental theatrical perceptions and representations are created.
- A diverse pastiche of different textualities and media forms are used, including the simultaneous use of multiple art or media forms, and there is the 'theft' of a heterogeneous group of artistic forms.
- Narrative need not be complete but can be broken, paradoxical and imagistic. There is a movement away from linearity to multiplicity (to inter-related 'webs' of storying), where acts and scenes give way to a series of peripatetic dramatic moments.
- Characters are fragmented, forming a collection of contrasting and parallel shards stemming from a central idea, theme or traditional character.
- Each new performance of a theatrical pieces is a new Gestalt, a unique spectacle, with no intent on methodically repeating a play.
- The audience is integral to the shared meaning making of the performance process and are included in the dialogue of the play.
- There is a rejection of the precepts of "High" and "Low" art. The production exists only in the viewers mind as what the viewer interperates, nothing more and nothing less.
- The rehearsal process in a theatrical production is driven more by shared meaning-making and improvisation, rather than the scripted text.
- The play steps back from reality to create its own self conscious atmosphere. This is sometimes referred to as meta-theatre
While these techniques are often found in Postmodern productions they are never part of a centralised movement or style. Rather, they are tools for authentic introspection, questioning and representation of human experience.
Postmodern Theatre works tend to be challenging for an audience who are used to the time-honoured conventions of theatre and have expectations. The breaking of these expectations and the finding of new boundaries and sensibilities is the very point of this theatrical movement.
Notable Examples of Postmodern TheatreEdit
- Sam Shepard's "Buried Child"
- Ozono Production's "Fuerza Bruta"
- Heiner Mullers "Hamletmachine"
- Ben Elton's "Popcorn"