In this essay I plan to look at two theatre practitioners who’s lives were dominated by their desire for change: change to prevailing theatre practice, which they saw as inhibiting experimentation. Above all, they were people who took risks, since by challenging outmoded ideas they were forced to provide radical alternatives. We now recognise these as models for our own time. I have chosen to look at the work of Konstantin Sergeievich Alexeiev (Stanislavski), and Antonin Artaud. Firstly I would like to look at the theories and practices of Stanislavski. To begin with one needs to put his work into context. Stanislavski dedicated his entire life to changing the Russian theatre. Since its infancy in the early 19th century it had been controlled by heavy censorship. Stanislavski identified and described what these gifted performers did naturally and without thought. From his observations he compiled a series of principles and techniques, which today are regarded as fundamental to both the training, and the performance of actors and actresses who want to create believable characters on stage. It would be easy to assume that believable acting is simply a matter of being natural, however Stanislavski discovered that acting realistically onstage is extremely artificial and difficult. He wrote; “All of our acts, even the simplest, which are so familiar to us in everyday life, become strained when we appear behind the footlights before a public of a thousand people. That is why it is necessary to correct ourselves and learn again how to walk, sit, or lie down. It is essential to re-educate ourselves to look and see, on the stage, to listen and to hear.” (Stanislavski, 1993.) To achieve this “re-education”, Stanislavski said, “the actor must first of all believe in everything that takes place on stage, and most of all, he must believe what he himself is doing. And one can only believe in the truth.” (Stanislavski, 1993.) …
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