Sort Sol (Black Sun) program guide (1999)Summary biography / background:

Lars Øyno’s Theatre of Cruelty produced its first performance in collaboration with Trøndelag Teater in 1989, and was established as a separate group in 1992. Since then it has produced 21 performances. Since 2002 we have had our own stage in Hausmannsgt 34 which was established with support from the Norwegian Arts Council. The company has performed at festivals and stages in Germany, Poland, England, Sweden, India and France. The company has in these places, in addition to in Ireland and New York, also held workshops.

Company’s philosophical approach:

Theatre of Cruelty make performances within the physical tradition and retrieves basic inspiration from Antonin Artaud’s vision of an anatomical theater.

We create theatre with the body’s own musicality, its breath and poetry, as the beginning for all actions. Artaud wanted to awaken the inherent life force that exists in nature and that the Western man seems to have forgotten. Theatre thus becomes a tool for real life. We do not seek to reproduce realistic reality so it can be recognized, but to tell of the core of life inherent in every genuine experience. Although based on a dramatic work or a literary text, the written word does not have a pivotal role and is often lost in the overall stage picture.

To have done with the judgement of god (1993)To Have Done With the Judgement of God (1993)

“Based on Antonin Artaud’s radio drama with the same title from 1947, the performance seeks to discern the infinite through continual breeches of the taboo. The search goes on in between the physical and the verbal, striving for a sense of absolute presence where man resembles an animal.”

[P.S.: These radio broadcasts are provided in the footer of this blog.]

The Philosophers’ Stone (1997-99)

Philosophers Stone (1997)… “a threeway drama with metaphysical undercurrents, was written by Antoin Artaud in 1927. Artaud dreamt of assembling a new man, making no use of the divine automatism that asserts itself through the use of genitals for copulation. This must be considered a political vision. Just like ’the philosophers’ stone’ played a crucial role in the alchemists’ attempts at metamorphosis, so was Artaud’s idea to invent a means of altering man without divine intervention, so that life may be resurrected in true autonomy.”

The Spurt of Blood (2005)

“Antonin Artaud’s The Spurt of Blood from 1925 is a stormy rumination on love, death and the predicaments of humanity concentrated to a few mind-boggling pages. At the core of the play is a simple and eloquent juxtaposition: love in an idealised form versus agents of dominant social forces. Artaud views the social arrangement as cataclysmic, and renders love as a doomed pursuit. Although the text is impossible to divorce from Artaud’s tortured personality, it points no less perceptively at an eternal phenomenon that configures itself anew according to the psychological climate of each era: the terror and longing that arise where societal values and the individual’s emotional life collide. One body of work that throws light upon Artaud’s theme, is that of Erich Fromm – the psychologist and humanist who brought historical and cultural factors within the purview of psychology, and identified the plight of man in the post-existentialist world more lucidly and comprehensively than most: Modern man, claimed Fromm, is unable to sustain the spiritual autonomy granted only recently by the fall of God, and seeks comfort in modern patterns of submission. It appears that the pursuit of “freedom”, more often than not, throws men at the feet of materialism. By the same token, ‘love’ in its most widespread use is coded as a model of extended egotism. However, ‘love’ understood as ‘selflessness’ – an absolute, non-acquisitive principle for life in its entirety – certainly counteracts the self-centred modern mentality, and is likely to suffer isolation, if not mockery. And yet man’s freedom and the affirmation of life in general is rooted in one’s capacity to love unconditionally.

“It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. The tragedy in the life of most of us is that we die before we are fully born”, remarks Fromm. With such observations in mind, Theatre of Cruelty chose to leave the timeless, placeless world of Artaud behind and embark upon a historically allusive interpretation. With actors as mediums, director Lars Øyno invokes icons of liberation utopias and endearing corruption that populate our cultural memory: Hans Christian Andersen, Berthold Brecht, Marilyn Monroe. Replacing the feverish surrealism of the original text with figures such as these, Øyno seems to suggest that Artaud’s ecstatic brew has equally illuminating counterparts in our historical and cultural canon. Of the original The Spurt of Blood, only the opening dialogue between two young lovers has remained. In Artaud’s play, the lovers are interrupted by a whirlwind of mythical proportions, which ends with a scarab falling down on stage with an “exasperating, nauseating slowness”. In Theatre of Cruelty’s production, this particular motif translates into the entire performance: a declining world of grotesque characters, prickling with pretence or agony. The performance takes shape of an exigent process of self-uncovering, sensations reverberating from one character to another and triggering aggressive confrontations. The overall effect is that of a slow-mo horror cabinet, or an infinitely sustained death throe. The Spurt of Blood has become both a tragic love story and a brief history of modern love, narrated in hallucinatory images that emerge from one another, as in a dream.”

Disturbing dreamscapes make up a fierce short story (…) dark and misty, like the anxiety Artaud himself must have experienced. With the help of movement, sound, light, songs and music, tableaus evolve around the themes of falsehood and reality, dread and denial, love and cruelty, life and death.The Spurt of Blood both irritates and fascinates with its jagged idiom and its direct narrative style. And Artaud is not easily captured. But the gravity of his theories and texts concerning the relationship between darkness and light, greed and innocence, devotion and loathing, death and being – it all comes assertively across in this production.- Elisabeth Rygg, Aftenposten

Challenging, stringent avant chamber play. An experiment in visual dramaturgy and repetition rituals; an exploration of emotions in a dark, open space. The progression is slow, the effect mesmerising. The dreamlike quality of the tableaus is strong, and actors attend to their roles with intensity. Lars Øyno possesses a remarkable, visual theatrical gift. A visit to Grusomhetens Teater is each time an encounter with something entirely unique in Norwegian theatre. This production manifests a further exploration of their idiom. – Andreas Wiese, Dagbladet

A powerful dramatic performance satiated with expressiveness (…) comes rarely close to the French theatre legend Antonin Artaud. Øyno and the ensemble use all available space and speak in gestures and voices that result in strong visual statements and poignant scenes.- Jørgen Alnæs, Dagsavisen

There is something captivating about the monotonous and desperate brutality that the characters act out against each other on stage. In spite of endless repetitions, I am eagerly present and, to my bewilderment, responsible for the fact that this massive darkness and cruelty neither distresses nor alarms me. – IdaLou Larsen, scenekunst.no 

Theatre & Science (2007)

“Through this performance, director Lars Øyno and the eleven actresses investigate two texts by the French poet and theatre legend Antonin Artaud, ”Deranging the Actor” and ”Theatre & Science”. The piece aims to bring about a necessary transformation of the actor, the human body and of the world. The patriarchal hierarchy of the world suppresses the creative force of life, controls the fertility and the visions of women, and distracts human thought through the endless attention given to trivial details, but here patriarchy is put on trial and will receive its judgment. Since the stage is only occupied by women, and they were involved in all aspects of the creative process, women’s perspectives of the world are expressed. The aim of the performance is to rediscover ideas, experiences, and thoughts that are lost in the current scramble for material wealth. The eleven actresses seize their bodies, souls and voices, emitting a scream which can point out the direction for a total physiological revolution, without which nothing can be changed.”

Also see: The Mountain Bird (2009)

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