Brecht et Platon: théâtre comme révolution. Défamiliarisation vs. répétition
Brecht and Plato: Theatre as Revolution. The Effect of Alienation and Repetition
Brecht and Plato: Theatre as Revolution. The Effect of Alienation and Repetition Would we be able to think about staging—or stage—a revolution as an event connected with the revolutionary process itself, rather than as a theatrical performance, repeatable and repeated every evening? In his attempt to answer the question, Leszek Brogowski wrote an article for the Brecht symposium in Rennes in 2010. In fact, the question is of going beyond the content of the dramatic presentation of revolutionary history because Brecht himself was interested in theater.
Even Saint-Just was aware of the necessity to add to social revolution, aimed at creating a just society, an element of transformation of consciousness revolution of consciousness. This kind of revolution is irreversible: when we realize something, we are not able to go back, therefore we cannot behave as if it had no place, as if we still lived in ignorance. Unless we accept the hypocrisy and conformism.
Participation of modern art in revolutionary processes is based on provoking this kind of ‘revolution of consciousness’. Leszek Brogowski defends Brecht’s intuition because he is aware that Brecht thought of Platonic reflection on theater. Plato did not condemn art, as is often written— he only condemned certain artistic ‘ways’. His criticism of theater ncludes identifying the unique experience that defies poetic and theatrical mimesis imitation, namely: thoughts. Imitation of thought is not a thought.
Plato believed that the weakness of the Greek theatre was connected with that factor and Brecht’s criticism contributes to strengthening of Plato’s criticism. Brecht said many times that that on-lookers’ identification with the characters of the play can no longer serve as an aesthetic principle of theater. In order to o arouse thought and encourage to act, theater must use more and more stimuli which interfere with, delay or even prevent this type of aesthetic identification and form critical distance between audience and stage. Brecht described all theatrical elements which are connected with critical attitudes in his theory of Verfremdung or ‘alienationeffect’. In his own theatrical productions, he used, for example, banners as parts of dramatic actions and also as props in workers’ street demonstrations.
Brechtian model of critical distancing leading to a revolution of consciousness is in opposition to both mimesis and catharsis. Brecht often used the idea when he spoke against the bourgeois theater, which to this day still overwhelms us. Brecht believed that successful theatrical performance, an adequate staging of dramatic action, relied on the advent of a new social order.
Based on three examples: 1. sensu stricto revolutionary event, namely, the funeral of Marat, 2. the staging of Zola’s Germinal at the Châtelet Theater in Paris in 1885 by William Busnach and 3. the premiere of Brecht’s Mother, Leszek Brogowski analyzed the complex set of questions connected with theater and its role in formation of critical attitudes transformation of consciousness, sovereign thinking and revolutionary processes. Brogowski tried to identify both the barriers of aesthetic theory and difficult problems connected with Brecht’s own theatrical experience. In conclusion, Brogowski offered a surprising solution: he wrote that scientific character of Brecht’s Verfremdung theory should be revindicated as the starting point of further discussion on the subject.
Leszek Brogowski’s article entitled Brecht et Plato: théâtre comme révolution. Défamiliarisation vs . répétition was published with some cuts in La Révolution mise en scène edited by F. Maier-Schaeffer, Ch. Page and C. Vaissié, Rennes, PUR, a series of Le spectaculaire, 2012 , p. 241–254. The ‘Dyskurs’ magazine publishes the article based on kind permission of the editors.