I’m sure the intention of Lincoln Company is to shock. They use all the tricks in the book, from hissing in audience members’ ears to licking our feet and portraying an angry orgy on stage. Problem is, it fails to do anything of the sort. We’ve seen it all before and in 2013 it doesn’t have any effect beyond boredom. I can’t help feeling Artaud: A Trilogy is basically an A Level drama piece gone wrong.
Taking inspiration from three short pieces by the renowned French maverick (Spurt of Blood, The Cenci and The Seashell & the Clergyman), the production sees three men and two women ploughing through vignettes in an attempt to assault the audience’s senses. We witness excess, rape, violence and, sometimes, moments of joy. There’s a lot of material, and it’s not nearly focused enough.
It also feels supremely dated. Granted, Artaud was writing well back in the last century, but rather than adapt his theories to reflect modern theatre practices the company instead run into the problem that we’ve come on a long way. This means they have to wade through issues with gender and sexual politics without once questioning their implications.
I actually think this is a general problem with young companies making works inspired by ‘great practitioners’ like Artaud and Brecht. Because we are given crash courses of their work at a young age and never really delve deep into their writings and works, views about them become skewed and you run into problems like simply attempting to shock or attempting to lecture respectively, without acknowledging that Artaud and Brecht were well aware of their context and would want future practitioners to respond to their’s, too. Otherwise we just get a little better than museum piece, a passing curiosity which longs for the past.
This company clearly have energy and aren’t afraid to try to push things, but as it stands Artaud: A Trilogy feels far from finished and left me feeling supremely, tiresomely underwhelmed.