Shane Pike – Le Théâtre et la Peste: Artaud’s The Theatre and its Double as an act of gathering


Shane Pike


Le Théâtre et la Peste: Artaud’s The Theatre and its Double as an act of gathering

In March 2020, Wolfgang Pannek – founder and co-director of Brazil’s multi-award-winning dance theatre company, Taanteatro Companhia – proposed an idea to gather artists from around the world. Using the chapter “Le Théâtre et la Peste” (“The Theatre and the Plague”) as it appears in Artaud’s work The Theatre and its Double, to function as a stimulus for evoking contemporary responses to our contemporary plague: COVID-19. This act of digitally enabled gathering brings acclaimed performance artists from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Mozambique, Thailand and Tunisia together, each contributing a creative response to the source text as it is read from government-mandated isolation. From the confines of quarantine, the artists collaborate across time and binary code, each infusing their contributions with the lived cultural, political, environmental and economic experiences fate has landed them in.

Following the traditions of the French-surrealist’s method of collective compositional arrangement, “Exquisite Corpse,” each contributor builds on the offerings of the previous to create a thematically linked montage of audio and visual recordings captured in and expressing viral isolation. In a kind of unintentional homage to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2000 film Mysterious Object at Noon, the result is an orchestrated presentation of short film-like accounts covering a breadth of isolation experiences, each welcoming the other to generate a truly global reaction to the crisis.

This presentation will briefly discuss the philosophical and theoretical connections between the contemporary experience and Artaud’s words, before detailing some of the creative process and the collaborative journeys of the artists involved. It will include showing sections of the final creative composition.

Dr Shane Pike is a published playwright, award-winning director and lecturer in drama at the Queensland University of Technology. A significant amount of his work is dedicated to exploring (and expressing) Australian identity/ies. Directing credits include Appalling Behaviour, Ma Ma Ma Mad and Nineteen (Brisbane Powerhouse and Arts Queensland) and Yesterday’s Hero (Taanteatro, Sao Pualo, Brazil). His plays Nineteen (Playlab) and The Boys of St Crispian (Playlab) are the creative outcomes of several years of ethnodramatic research into notions of identity amongst young Australians and are available to purchase online from Australian Plays and Playlab.