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58 Michael PAGE

Michael PAGE



…memory is the same as imagination…

(Giambattista Vico, New Science, 1725)

Abstract. This essay initiates an enquiry century and contemporary European theatre
into theatre as an action of memory. From in the work of Beckett and Kantor, and finally
a consideration of Foucault’s concept of in the reappearance of memory through the
heterotopic spaces it moves to a review of image in the work of contemporary eastern
the imaginary spaces of classical mnemonic European playwrights and directors. Here
techniques and theories, and thence to their the discussion focuses particularly on some
incorporation into the mystery and morality recent productions at the Hungarian National
plays of the Middle Ages. From there it goes Theatre in Cluj, which to this writer strongly
on to engage with the imaginary spaces of the suggest that the work of some contemporary
Renaissance, known as Memory Theatres, as Romanian and Hungarian directors implicitly
well as the physical space of the actual theatres acknowledges that theatre is, in some of its
of the Elizabethan period. It then seeks to forms at least, a reification of memory images
discover some ways in which these conceptions in space.
of space and memory are reinvented in 20th

In his essay, “Of Other Spaces,” Michel
Foucault speaks of the modern era as
one characterized by concern with – and
anxiety about – space. This space in which
EKPHRASIS, 1/2008 we live is “a set of relations that delineates
Visual Anthropology Research
and the Cinema of Reality sites which are irreducible to one another
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 59

and absolutely not superimposable on start with a brief review of the classical
one another” (OOS, 23). He describes treatises on artificial memory and its
these sites, or spaces, as being of two cultivation from which so much later
main types: utopian and heterotopian. theory developed.
Utopias are “sites with no real place,” The first surviving treatment of me-
but heterotopias are “real places…that are mory and its enhancement through the
formed in the very founding of society… art of mnemotechnics, is found in Book
which are something like counter-sites, III of the treatise Ad C. Herrenium, which
a kind of effectively enacted utopia in dates from 86-82 B.C. and was once
which the real sites…are simultaneously thought to be by Cicero. The unidentified
represented, contested, and inverted” author calls Memory “the treasure-house
(Ibid., 24). Not surprisingly, Foucault of the ideas supplied by Invention” (ACH,
cites the theatre as a heterotopia which 205), and goes on to distinguish natural,
juxtaposes “in a single real place several innate memory, and artificial memory,
spaces, several sites that are in themselves that is, memory activated by training and
incompatible” (Ibid., 25). Though Foucault discipline. His conception of the latter lays
does not pursue the theatrical example, the foundation of our enquiry:
it goes without saying that representing, The artificial memory includes back-
contesting, and inverting are exactly what grounds and images. By backgrounds
theatre has been about to a greater or lesser I mean such scenes as are naturally or
degree throughout history. artificially set off on a small scale…so that
Michal Kobialka designates the room we can grasp and embrace them easily
of Tadeusz Kantor’s Wielopole, Wielopole by the natural memory – for example,
(1980) as a heterotopic space, and I would a house, an intercolumnar space, a
go further to suggest that Kantor’s work recess, an arch, or the like. An image
particularly, and much of Beckett’s are is, as it were, a figure, mark, or portrait
prime instances of theatre as heterotopia, of the object we wish to remember; for
and that – most evidently in Kantor and example, if we wish to recall a horse, a
in Beckett’s Endgame – the locations are lion, or an eagle, we must place its image
memory spaces. Still further, I would in a definite background. (Ibid, 210)
like in these “notes toward a thesis” to The imagination, the author goes on to
explore the notion that certain kinds of say, can embrace any region whatsoever
theatre constitute an interface in which and in it at will fashion and construct the
memory and heterotopic space uniquely setting of some background. The operation
come together. of the image against this background is
The conception of memory as spatial illustrated by the author with a scenario
and imagistic has been present in the that is essentially dramatic. It demonstrates
thinking of mnemonic theorists since the the power of “one notation, a single image”
earliest times, and our enquiry should to evoke an entire narrative sequence, and
60 Michael PAGE

it is worth quoting in full: …are not many or vague, but doing

For example, the prosecutor has said that something; if we assign to them excep-
tional beauty or singular ugliness; if
the defendant killed a man by poison,
we dress some of them with crowns or
has charged that the motive for the crime
purple cloaks, for example, so that the
was an inheritance, and declared that
likeness may be more distinct to us; or
there are many witnesses and accessories
if we somehow disfigure them, as by
to this act. If in order to facilitate our
introducing one stained with blood or
defence we wish to remember this first
soiled with mud or smeared with red
point, we shall in our first background
paint, so that its form is more striking, or
form an image of the whole matter. We
by assigning certain comic effects to our
shall picture the man in question as
images… (Ibid, 221, emphasis added)
lying ill in bed, if we know his person. If
we do not know him, we shall yet take Cicero himself in De Oratore (55 B.C.)
someone to be our invalid, but not a pursues the central conceit of memory
man of the lowest class, so that he may operating as images placed or stored in
come to mind at once. And we shall place localities, and – alluding to the famous
the defendant at the bedside, holding tale recounted by Quintilian in his
in his right hand a cup, and in his left Institutio Oratoria (A.D. 96) of Simonides
tablets, and on the fourth finger a ram’s remembering the identities of the vic-
testicles [from which purses were made]. tims of the collapse of a dining hall by
In this way we can record the man who retaining an accurate image of their
was poisoned, the inheritance, and the
placement before the disaster (see QOE,
witnesses. (Ibid, 215)
63-4) – reminds us that memory images
Of such iconographic specificity is are the product of sensual experience,
theatre made: the man in bed, the poisoner, particularly that of sight; and further, that
the cup, the tablets and the ram’s testicles things heard, not seen, are best somehow
are images containing past action, and translated into a visual equivalent which
were this a scene in a play the audience is then, like the others, placed in a location
would experience it as both a symbolic (CDO, 469). Interestingly, Cicero descri-
and actual imaging in which a complex bes the images of things to be remembered
history is made instantaneously accessible. as masks representing them (CDO, 360),
Later, the author goes on to point out that an indication of his acknowledgment of
artificial memory needs to make use of the theatrical dimension of memory. It was
unusual or striking images or events, and Cicero, too, who established the essential
not ordinary, everyday ones, and again his connection between rhetoric and moral
instances of these are active and dramatic. virtue that was to be one of the foundations
We must, he writes, set up images that can of medieval scholasticism and the guiding
“adhere longest in the memory,” and they rationale of its theatre. Memory was one
will do this if they of the three parts of Prudence (along with
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 61

intelligence and foresight), which was in she does not extend her enquiry into
turn one of the four cardinal virtues – miracle, mystery and morality plays, which
the others being Justice, Fortitude and are nothing if not dramatic enactments of
Temperance (See CDO, 327). what every Christian needs to know and
For Augustine, memory was one of remember for salvation.
the three parts of the soul, and in Chapter For Albertus Magnus, in De Bono (1246-
X of the Confessions (A.D. 397-399), he 1248), memory was the most necessary
perpetuated its metaphor as a natural part of Prudence, and for Albertus’
place like a cavern, or a constructed one student, Thomas Aquinas, writing about
like a palace, a hall or a storeroom, all twenty years later, artificial memory,
of which he saw as places wherein the “the memory exercised and improved
“inward actions” of sensory memory take by art,” as Yates defines it, is “one of the
place (Confessions, 1998, 186). He identified proofs that memory is a part of Prudence”
memory with mind and mind with self, (YAM, 67, 74). Inculcating the virtues and
and thus ascribed to it a high moral vices, retelling the stories that make up
significance in the context of Christian the liturgy, teaching right conduct for
faith. “Great is the power of memory,” he salvation, all of these were imperatives
says, “And this is mind, this is I myself.” that drove the art of preaching in a
The infinitely diverse power of memory is religious culture that predated printing,
a profound gift through which he is able and which therefore relied profoundly on
to reach God, but it is also something that memory through the image, rather than
he must transcend in order to reach him. through written or even spoken language.
(SAC, 194). In their important anthology, The Medieval
In the Middle Ages the art of memory Craft of Memory, Mary Carruthers and Jan
was installed unequivocally in the pantheon M. Ziolkowski consistently show through
of virtues. From the Ad Herrenium and their selections that the locational model
from Cicero medieval writers on memory of memory as images stored in places,
took over definitions of the four cardinal and the reconstituting of them as an active
virtues, and in this context laid particular process, were fundamental to medieval
emphasis on Prudence, which consisted teaching. As they point out in their
of three parts, intelligentia, providentia, and introduction, “medieval memoria took the
memoria. That memory was defined as part inventive function of human memory for
of one of the cardinal virtues is of central granted, and emphasized it” (MCM, 3);
importance to the nature of medieval in other words, “memory depended on
theatre, especially of the form which imagination, the image-making power
prevailed after 1400 – the morality play. of the soul” (Ibid, 11). It is important to
Frances A. Yates’ seminal book The Art remember, though, that imagination and
of Memory (1966) deals extensively with innovation were aspects of memory, which
medieval mnemotechnics, but curiously was “the faculty regarded as prior to both,
62 Michael PAGE

and an essential aspect to understanding” the central structure is, and where the
(Ibid, 22). audience is required to be. In this play,
Yates links the medieval need to remem- which enacts “the whole scheme of man’s
ber through imagery to the iconography life…from birth to death, from innocence
found in manuscripts and sculptures, and to salvation” (SAS, 1), the Castle itself is
the paintings of such artists as Giotto and represented by a tower placed in the center
Lorenzetti. This iconography is frequently of a large circle, with “mankind’s bed”
grotesque, and invariably exists in signi- placed in the lower half of it. At the edge of
ficant loci, and thus satisfies at least two the circle at the four points of the compass
of the requirements recommended by the are scaffolds, which are another form of
author of Ad Herrenium. But another clear loci and which represent the locations
link can be made to medieval drama. In of Deus (east), Mundus (west), Flesh
the mystery and morality plays of the (south), and Belial (north), with Covetous
Middle Ages, both of which primarily at a north-east point between Deus and
were intended for religious and moral Belial. The locations and personifications
instruction, space and location, and the of vices and virtues, and the fact that the
deployment of images within them, were audience would not have been stationary
of central importance to the message but, like the actors, moving from place
being conveyed. The mansions or loci, to place as the action demanded, meant
established within churches and cathedrals that the impact of the moral instruction
for the performances of liturgical dramas was highly dependent on its images being
in the early Middle Ages, were essentially physicalized and so remembered. Morality
memory locations, whether they stood plays were truly a theatrical translation
for standard features such as paradise or of classical and medieval arguments on
hell, or places specific to the story being the centrality of artificial memory to the
told, such as Noah’s Ark, or the temple exercise of prudence and right conduct.
at Jerusalem. In later vernacular religious In The Castle of Perseverance, Mankind
drama, performed outside in town squares encounters such Vice-embodiments as
or fields, pageant wagons or scaffolds Lust-Liking, Pleasure, Folly, Pride, Wrath
fulfilled the same function as mansions. and Envy, who entice him to the various
The supreme surviving example of scaffolds until Penance draws him to the
the theatrical use of space for moral Castle. The Vices attack the castle and
instruction is the morality play The Mankind is tempted away then claimed
Castle of Perseverance, which has been by Death, but through the intercession of
dated from 1400 to 1425. Not only is the Justice, Mercy, Truth and Peace his soul
conception highly elaborate, but it is is saved by God’s mercy and ascends to
visually schematized in a plan attached the Deus scaffold.
to the manuscript. This clearly delineates It is interesting to juxtapose this actual
where the mansions are located, what enactment of what is to be remembered for
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 63

salvation with a one-dimensional scheme are essentially memory images operating

– “The Tower of Wisdom” a pictorial in mnemonic loci.
diagram made by John of Metz in the 13th The second question was, “Why,
century. Like the castle in the morality when the invention of printing seemed
play the tower is an allegorical structure to have made the great Gothic artificial
intended to act as a mnemonic device, memories of the Middle Ages no longer
with Humility as its foundation, the necessary, was there this recrudescence
cardinal virtues as columns, and multiple of the interest in the art of memory in
rooms each containing a virtuous action or the…Renaissance…?” (Ibid). In seeking
a prohibition against a sinful one. At the the answer, Yates examines in detail the
top of the tower sit actions of judgment, work of three hermetic philosophers
discipline and punishment. Running up of the period, Giulio Camillo (c. 1480-
one side of the tower is the inscription 1544), Giordano Bruno (c. 1548-1600) and
“Height of the tower is perseverance in the Robert Fludd (1574-1637). Of these three
good.” (The diagram and the translations it is Camillo and Fludd that particularly
of its inscriptions are from Lucy Freeman concern us here because they were the
Sandler’s essay, “John of Metz, The Tower creators of the mnemonic devices known
of Wisdom” in MCM, op cit., 217) as Memory Theatres. Though these were
not actual theatres it is the intention of this
essay to suggest that the construct is more
In her preface to The Art of Memory, than an image of memory processes and
Frances A. Yates tells us that her book memory enhancement, but a conception
grew out of pondering two questions. of theatre itself.
The first was “Why did Albertus Magnus Camillo’s Theatre was unique in that it
and Thomas Aquinas regard the use was a physical structure made of wood and
in memory of the places and images of big enough to accommodate two people.
[Ad Herrenium] as a moral and religious It was, according to the account of Viglius
duty?” (YAM, xii). The answer was that Zuichemus who saw it in Venice, marked
it seemed evident that “the Middle Ages with images and full of little boxes, and as
might think of figures of virtues and vices Viglius describes it, embodied Camillo’s
as memory images” (Ibid). Again, Yates conception of the mind:
does not specifically mention theatre, but
He pretends that all things that the
if this assertion is correct then we can
human mind can conceive and which
safely draw the inference that both the we cannot see with the corporeal eye,
religious morality plays, like The Castle of after being collected together by diligent
Perseverance, Everyman, Mundus et Infans, meditation may be expressed by certain
and The Interlude of Youth, and the secular corporeal signs in such a way that the
ones, like Respublica, Magnyficence, and All beholder may at once perceive with his
for Money, the virtue and vice characters eyes everything that is otherwise hidden
64 Michael PAGE

in the depths of the human mind. And it truths can be explored and comprehended
is because of this corporeal looking that plays directly into the micro- and macro-
he calls it a theatre. (Quoted in YAM, cosmic implications of the Elizabethan
131-2) “wooden O,” wherein can be contained
This reminds us immediately of the not only “the vasty fields of France” as
etymology of the word ‘theatre,’ which in Shakespeare’s Henry V, but the whole
derives from the Greek theatron – a place for celestial order, whose all-encompassing
looking at something, with that something presence was represented by the emblem
implicitly being live and active. However, of the zodiac painted on the canopy above
as Yates shows, the normal configuration the inner stage of the Globe Theatre, which
of stage and auditorium is reversed in was known as “the Heavens.”
Camillo’s theatre, with the ‘audience’ Hamlet calls his mind a “distracted
– i.e. the person whose mind is being globe” in which “memory holds a seat,”
exercised – standing on the stage and the and it has been suggested by at least one
“corporeal signs” occupying the seats of scholar that Hamlet the play is a “complex
what looks like a Roman theatre. What memory system,” full of memory objects
the theatre essentially does is to present like Yorick’s skull, and macro- and
a scheme wherein the entire universe can micro-cosmic images like the “nutshell”
be placed in the mind, and its physical of physical limitations and the “infinite
and mystical particulars accessed through space” of the imagination (see RDK, 153,
memorized locations. It is worth quoting and the chapter “Bruno and Shakespeare:
Yates’ summary of Camillo’s vision. It Hamlet” passim).
represents, she says, Another notable Renaissance Theatre
A new Renaissance plan of the psyche…. Memory system was that of the English
Medieval man was allowed to use his low philosopher and hermetic scholar Robert
faculty of imagination to form corporeal Fludd. In his History of the Two Worlds
similitudes to help his memory; it was a (1619), Fludd describes how he based his
concession to his weakness. Renaissance
system on the configurations of actual
Hermetic man believes that he has divine
London public theatres of the Elizabethan
powers; he can form a magic memory
through which he grasps the world, and Jacobean periods, particularly the
reflecting the divine macrocosm in the Globe Theatre. As Frances Yates shows,
microcosm of his divine mens. The magic he was familiar with the mechanics of how
of celestial proportion flows from his theatres worked and with the practical
world memory into the magical words elements of theatrical production, so
of his oratory and poetry, into the perfect when he called his memory buildings
proportions of his art and architecture. ‘theatres’ he was not simply making use
(YAM, 172) of a conceptual image. That said, it is
Such an exalted conception of the power important to note, as Yates does, that by
of memory as a space in which universal ‘theatre’ Fludd actually means a stage, not
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 65

a stage plus auditorium. Fludd explains in and for this reason it had enormous moral
his History that artificial memory consists significance. Though not didactic in the
of two types, the ars rotunda or ‘round art’ manner of the medieval morality plays,
and the ars quadrata or ‘square art.’ The first the works of the Elizabethan theatre were
is that of “the ethereal part of the world,” not a break from, but a continuation of the
of ideas, “which are forms separated moral resonances of those earlier dramas
from corporeal things,” and turned into into cosmic rather than theological or
what Yates calls talismanic images, and liturgical realms. In her chapter “The
the second is that of corporeal images – Theatre as Moral Emblem” Yates quotes
people, animals, inanimate objects (see the Jacobean dramatist and poet Thomas
YAM, 327, 329). The locational paradigm Heywood, who, in his Apology for Actors
of this memory system, Fludd insists, (1612) makes the through-line very clear:
must be drawn from a real theatre, and lest
Then our play’s begun
there be any doubt that he is thinking in When we are borne, and to the world first enter,
dramatic terms he introduces his memory And all find exits when their parts are done.
theatre with these words: If then the world a theatre present,
I call a theatre (a place in which) all actions As by its roundness it appears most fit,
of words, of sentences, of particulars of Built with starre galleries of hye ascent,
a speech or of subjects are shown, as in In which Jehove doth as spectator sit,
a public theatre in which comedies and And chief determiner to applaud the best,
tragedies are acted. (History, quoted in And their indeavours crowne with more than merit;
YAM, 331) But by their evill actions doomes the rest
To end discrac’t, whilst others praise inherit;
Shakespeare’s “wooden O” – the Globe
He that denyes then theatres should be,
Theatre – which consisted (in both its 1599
He may as well deny a world to me.
and 1614 incarnations) of a hexagonal (Quoted in YTW, 164-5)
exterior, a round interior and a square
stage, thus becomes itself an image of With the theatre holding such cen-
Fludd’s memory system, with the ‘square trality in English moral, cultural and
art’ being able to contain the cosmic imaginative life, the significance of Fludd
dimensions of the ‘round art.’ adopting actual theatrical space for the
In a later book, Theatre of the World deployment of his memory system is
(1969), Yates explores in more detail very great. Yates concludes that in the
the interconnectedness between such English Renaissance “the ancient theatre
memory systems as Fludd’s and the actual could be moralized and transformed into
Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres, and a building which was not only a Theatre of
the world view that they embodied. The the World in the cosmic sense, but also in
Renaissance concept of theatrum mundi a sense compatible with Christianity and
was the seminal image behind the theatre its teachings” (YTW, 168). The cultivation
of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, of memory as a moral imperative is there
66 Michael PAGE

in the earliest writings on the subject; productions in the private theatres in the
it is taken over and intensified by Jacobean age signal a narrowing of focus
medieval mnemotechnicians; and in its and a reduction in the resonance of theatre.
humanist form it is there in the hermetic When the theatres were reopened in 1660
philosophers of the Italian and English with the restoration of the monarchy the
Renaissance. Common to all these systems dominant preoccupation was comedy of
is the conception of artificial memory as manners, with highly artificial tragedies
locational and spatial, and implicit in not far behind. For over 200 years the
them (and in Fludd’s case explicitly) is the image of theatre as a memory space
sense that what happens in these spaces disappears, being replaced in many and
is most effective when it is dramatic. This varied forms by the theatre of illusion,
suggests that the equation can work both
mannerism, naturalism and realism,
ways: that if memory can be thus imaged
more often than not confined behind the
theatrically, theatre itself can be conceived
proscenium arch of a picture stage. In a
of as a memory system, and that when it
real sense the pictorial, illusionistic, fourth
is so conceived it has moral purpose akin
wall stage is the opposite of a memory
to that which necessitates the cultivation
stage because it is concerned with the
of ars memoriae.
reproduction of reality outside the mind,
III rather than making tangible the inner life
The square platform stages of the and workings of the mind itself.
Elizabethan and Jacobean public theatres, One of the first theorists to place
with their five entrances at stage level and a theatre back in the mind was Edward
balcony above, did not lend themselves to Gordon Craig, who, in “The Actor and
playwrights and actors following literally the Über-Marionette” (1907) asserted
Hamlet’s injunction to the players to “hold that to “restore its art” theatre needed to
the mirror up to nature.” Hamlet’s mirror banish “impersonation” and “the idea of
was not a realistic or illusionistic one, but reproducing Nature” (OAT, 75). For him
one that operated metaphysically. With personally the creative inspiration needed
no obligation to “reproducing” life the to do this came
Elizabethan-Jacobean stage was a singular …from that mysterious, joyous, and
example of a heterotopic space, a counter- superbly complete life which is called
site in which the cosmic drama of man’s Death – that life of shadow and of
life could be represented, contested and unknown shapes, where all cannot
inverted. be blackness and fog as is supposed,
After the demise of the great public but vivid colour, vivid light, sharp-cut
theatres the cosmic frame diminishes and form; and which one finds peopled with
disappears. strange, fierce and solemn figures, pretty
The artificiality and illusionism of Inigo figures and calm figures, and those figures
Jones’ court masques and some of the impelled to some wondrous harmony of
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 67

movement – all this is something more replete with Craig’s “wondrous harmony”
than a mere matter of fact. (Ibid, 74) or “vivid colour,” but in the sense in which
With this release from any “repro- we have discussed above it is a celebration,
ductive” necessity theatre would, Craig particularly if we take the word in its
believed, reconnect with its ancient original Latin meaning of “to honour by
spiritual origins. At the conclusion of his assembling.” The witnesses to Hamm and
essay he writes: Clov’s “life” in the ante-Purgatory that
is their room watch a piece of memory
I pray earnestly for the return of the
image – the über-marionette to the theatre in one of its clearest forms. Their
Theatre; and when he comes again …it play is a cyclic ritual in which fragments
will be possible for the people to return of the past are endlessly recounted and
to their ancient joy in ceremonies – reconstituted, in which memory images
once more will Creation be celebrated are rearranged and relocated, and – if, as
– homage rendered to existence – and many critics interpret it, the room of the
divine and happy intercession made to play is the mind itself – a ritual in which
Death. (Ibid, 94) the two main characters are themselves
Though Craig does not speak of memory images.
memory specifically, his vision of theatre This sense of mnemonic ritualized
here suggests a memory structure: if engagement with Death is explored by
theatre in this ideal form articulates “the Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida (1980),
complete life which is called Death”; if, a book of reflections on photography in
in other words, it resurrects that which is which he sets up an important triangular
already past, then it is a location in which relationship between Death, theatre and
memory images – shaped by the artist – photography. Barthes argues that the art
can now acquire a life of their own, not of photography is not akin to painting but
circumscribed by any requirement to to theatre, that its origins are in camera
reproduce an actual past, or to be “real” obscura, dioramas and animated light
or “natural.” The dramatic performance shows. But the connection goes deeper:
becomes the endlessly re-enacted ritual
…if Photography seems to me closer to
of death and resurrection: we enter the
the Theatre, it is by way of a singular
theatre space, we witness the ceremony intermediary…Death. We know the
that celebrates creation and intercedes original relation of the theatre and the
with Death on our behalf, and we are cult of the Dead: the first actors separated
renewed, to die again, and again return themselves from the community by
to be renewed. playing the role of the Dead: to make
We participate in such a process when oneself up was to designate oneself as a
we witness the infinitely recurring process body simultaneously living and dead…;
that is Beckett’s Endgame. It may be hard to however “lifelike” we strive to make it
think of this play as a “joyous” celebration, (and this frenzy to be lifelike can only be
68 Michael PAGE

our mythic denial of an apprehension of memory and space. After declaring that
death), Photography is a kind of primitive he gradually discovered that “THEATRE
theatre, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a was the right place for” memory and that
figuration of the motionless and made- “THE STAGE/became its/A L T A R !”
up face beneath which we see the dead. he goes on to quote from a commentary
(CL, 31-32) he made on his memory play Wielopole,
Just as Craig maintained that it was Wielopole:
futile for the art of the theatre to reproduce It is difficult to define the spatial dimension
life, to “pretend,” as he put it, so Barthes of memory.
decries the confusion between “the Real Here is a room of my childhood,
and the Live” that characterizes our that I keep reconstructing again and again
common perception of the photograph: and that keeps dying again and again
“by attesting that the object has been with all its inhabitants.
real,” Barthes writes, “the photograph Its inhabitants are the members of my family.
surreptitiously induces belief that it is alive, They continuously repeat all their
because of that delusion which makes us movements and activities
attribute to Reality an absolutely superior, as if they were recorded on a film negative
somehow eternal value; but by shifting shown interminably…
this reality to the past (“this-has-been”),
These D E A D F A Ç A D E S
the photograph suggests that it is already
come to life, become real and important,
dead” (Ibid, 79). Not surprisingly a few
through this stubborn R E P E T I T I O N of
pages later he remarks that “Photography
has something to do with resurrection” Maybe this pulsating rhythm…
(Ibid, 82). He does not, however, equate Is an inherent part of M E M O R Y…[sic]
the impact of photography with that of
theatre, and he makes this significant My “DISCOVERY” (made already in The
distinction: Dead Class)
…the dead theatre of Death, the fore- introduces new psychological elements into
closure of the Tragic, excludes all puri- stage acting
fication, all catharsis. I may well worship and a new type of “SPACE,” a nonphysical
an Image, a Painting, a Statue, but a space.
photograph? I cannot place it in a ritual… The CONDITION OF DEATH – of the DEAD –
unless, somehow, I avoid looking at it… [was] RECREATED IN THE LIVING….
(Ibid, 90)
They are dead but at the same time
Barthes’ “dead theatre of Death” alive…
brings us of course to Tadeusz Kantor Pulled out of a three-dimensional,
and his Theatre of Death. In an important surprisingly flat
manifesto of 1988 called “Memory,” Kantor practice of life…
defines the central triangulation of death, They lose their life’s functions…
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 69

To become E T E R N A L …. moved through pictorial artifice and

They become a W O R K O F A R T . thence to psychological realism its space
(TKM, 157-9) was not “of the mind,” but of physical
actuality, however variously conceived.
Michal Kobialka usefully summarizes But early in the 20th century, with artists
the significance of these statements for the and theorists like Craig, the theatre of
purposes of our enquiry when he writes image and memory is reactivated and
that in the “Theatre of Death” manifesto reinvented, and continues vibrantly into
(1975) Kantor “articulated his desire to the present day.
abandon a theatre grounded in physical
reality for a theatre of the mind,” and that IV
this “space of the past, which existed dead It seems particularly vibrant in the
in memory” provided an opportunity to work of Romanian and Hungarian direc-
enter another dimension in which the tors over the last decade or so, and by way
Self encountered its double, the Other of conclusion (and of opening the door
(KQO, 325). What Kantor articulated in to another essay), I would like to cite a
his writings and particularly in the four particular example of the contemporary
works that incarnated the death/memory/ presence of this theatre of memory-image.
space configuration – The Dead Class During the course of several visits to
(1975) Wielopole, Wielopole (1980), Let the Transylvania over the last three or four
Artists Die (1985), and I Shall Never Return years I have witnessed extraordinary
(1988) – is a logical outcome of all those manifestations of it in Romanian and
conceptions of theatre with which we have Hungarian national theatre productions.
been dealing. The morality plays were not They include Mihai Maniuţiu’s Woyzeck,
concerned with physical reality but with Tompa Gábor’s staging of Visky András’
the mind of the faithful Christian, and Long Friday, Andrei Şerban’s Uncle
later with the right mind of the secular Vanya (staged in a configuration that
ruler or the secular citizen leading to right evokes Camillo’s memory theatre), Silviu
conduct. Their impact was predominantly Purcărete’s Faust, and Dragoş Galgoţiu’s
through the activation of memory images. production of Thomas Bernhard’s The
The Elizabethan theatre which grew out of Hunting Party. It is this last I would like
them was concerned with physical reality, to discuss, in part because of its obvious
but with these major differences: its context debt to Kantor.
was cosmic, and its elements were not The Hunting Party (which dates from
realistically reproduced but embodied on 1974) is in essence a Kantorian memory
a square platform whereon the mind could play, and its space – the hunting lodge –
through poetic and emblematic images is a space of the mind, in which memory,
“entertain conjecture,” as the Chorus puts image, repetitive speech and action,
it in Henry V. As the theatre subsequently disease, disfigurement and encroaching
70 Michael PAGE

death are brought to play in grotesque Dragoş Galgoţiu’s recent production

and mechanized ritual. It is winter and the at the Hungarian National Theatre in
hunting lodge is located in a forest that is Cluj actualized these elements with
dying of infestation by a bark beetle. Inside great power and imaginativeness. From
the lodge are operetta-like personages Bernhard’s spare, almost non-dramatic
out of Austria-Hungary’s imperial past: text he created an elaborately ritualized
a Prince and Princess almost devoid of performance characterized by the interplay
life, scheming ministers, a maimed and of iconic images: marionette ministers, a
dying General with a wife who is frozen Prince and Princess operating like wind-
into endlessly repeated card-games and up toys, the General’s Wife and her double
compulsive talk that can only delay the despairingly re-incarnating Klimt’s and
onset of death. Also present is an ‘outsider,’ Schiele’s hauntedly erotic women, and
a writer who articulates the existential most or all of these at one time or other
death-consciousness of the play: either photographically arrested in sus-
When we look at a person pended images or obsessively repeating
no matter who gestures, speech and actions. As if to
we see a dying person… throw these elements into sharper relief
We are condemned Galgoţiu introduced a relationship not
to immobility existing in the text, an unrequited love of
we are dead Anna, the cook for Asamer the woodcutter.
everything is dead Played ‘naturalistically’ this affair was all
everything in us is dead the more poignant for being not only set
(THP, 118) apart from the stylized dance of death of
The General puts this into its theatrical the other characters, but destroyed by it.
context: “Our writer/writes a comedy/and Bernhard’s dramaturgy, Gitta Honegger
all of us sitting here/appear in his comedy,” writes, “is deeply rooted in a tradition
and then makes the theatre of the mind which has been drained of its original life
explicit: “You see he scribbles/all over the and serves now only as a…diversion from
walls of his mind/all over/a mind covered the overpowering obsession with decay and
with writing” (Ibid, 127). In this sense death.” His theatricality is “intentionally
the characters themselves are phantoms, frozen, mechanical, a ‘reconstructed’
dead people existing only in thehunting one” (TBI, 97). The Hungarian theatre
lodge of the writer’s mind. The echoes of production notably articulated this dra-
Endgame are clear: the hunting lodge and maturgy, and in a conversation with
Beckett’s room with two windows are both Visky András reproduced in the program
skulls, memory spaces, outside which the Galgoţiu not only confirms it but also
world is dead or dying, and inside which acknowledges his debt to Kantor.
the characters are mental images frozen in Galgoţiu is just one of several directors
time and locked in repetitive rituals. currently working in Hungary and
Notes Towards a Thesis on Theatre and Memory 71

Romania whose productions sustain and ur-Expressionist play and made it a play
reinvent the heterotopic theatre of the of mind and memory. Tompa Gábor’s
mind that is at the heart of the dramatic production of Visky András’ Long Friday
form. Mihai Maniuţiu’s Woyzeck, for used the same space to similar effect. The
example, used the backstage space of current vitality of theatre in this part of
the Hungarian National Theatre in Cluj Europe has much to do with the work
and transformed it into a space/memory/ of its playwrights, directors, actors and
death location, and suggested at the end designers restoring the central equation
that the militaristic and mechanized of space and memory that underlies
torment that Woyzeck endured would be and sometimes triumphantly surfaces in
repeated ad infinitum. The degrading and western European dramaturgy from the
humiliating rituals, and the images – both Greeks to Kantor and beyond.
human and mannequin – took Büchner’s

1. Ad C. Herrenium, translated by Harry Caplan, Harvard University Press, 1954 (ACH)
2. Saint Augustine, Confessions, translated by Henry Chadwick, Oxford University Press,1998
3. Barthes, Roland, Camera Lucida, translated by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, New York
1982 (CL)
4. Beckett, Samuel, Endgame, in The Complete Dramatic Works, Faber and Faber, London 1990
5. Bernhard, Thomas, The Hunting Party, translated by Gitta Honegger, Peforming Arts Journal,
13/1, 1980 New York (THP)
6. Carruthers, Mary, and Ziolkowski, Jan, editors, The Medieval Craft of Memory, University of
Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2002 (MCM)
7. Cicero, De Oratore, translated by E.W. Sutton and H. Rackham, Harvard University Press
1948 (CDO)
8. Craig, Edward Gordon, “The Actor and the Über-Marionette,” in On the Art of the Theatre,
Theatre Arts Books, New York 1956 (OAT)
9. Foucault, Michel, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Spring
1986 (OOS)
10. Galgoţiu, Dragoş, conversation with Visky András in the production program of The Hunting
Party, Hungarian National Theatre of Cluj, 2008
11. Gatti, Hilary, The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge, Routledge, London 1989 (RDK)
12. Honegger, Gitta, “Thomas Bernhard, an Introduction,” in Performing Arts Journal 13/1,
1980 (TBI)
13. Kantor, Tadeusz, “Memory,” in A Journey Through Other Spaces, Essays and Manifestos, 944-1990,
edited and translated by Michal Kobialka, University of California Press, 1993 (TKM)
14. Kobialka, Michal, “The Quest for the Other: Space/Memory,” in A Journey Through Other
Spaces (KQO)
72 Michael PAGE

16. Quintillian, The Orator’s Education (Institutio Oratoria), edited and translated by Donald A.
Russell, Harvard University Press, 2001 (QOE)
17. Sandler, Lucy Freeman, “John of Metz, The Tower of Wisdom,” in The Medieval Craft of
18. Schell, Edgar T., and Schuchter, J.D., editors, English Morality Plays and Moral Interludes, Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, New York 1969 (SAS)
19. Yates, Frances A., The Art of memory, University of Chicago Press, 1966 (YAM)
20. Yates, Frances A., Theatre of the World, University of Chicago Press, 1969 (YTW)

Michael Page is currently a Professor of Theatre at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan,
U.S.A. He is also a playwright and a professional actor and director, and has been visiting
Hungary and Romania regularly since 2004. He is a specialist in Shakespearean performance and
from February to May of 2008 he was in Cluj conducting a workshop on playing Shakespeare’s
language for Romanian and Hungarian acting, directing and dramaturgy students at Babeş-
Bolyai University. He holds a Ph. D. in American literature from the University of London,
has taught at several higher education institutions in Michigan, and in the Fall of 2007 was in
Budapest for five months, teaching a course on Theatre, Politics and Culture in East-Central

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