The theater of the absurd arises after the Second World War, within the framework of the new literary avant-gardes.
It is spoken of “The bald singer” of Ionesco as the first theatrical work defined within this current.
Characteristics of the theater of the absurd
Two main characteristics of the theater of the absurd are distinguished:
- A conception of the World, and
- A new form of dramatic expression
By conception of the World, the theater of the Absurd is closely linked to the existential literature of Albert Camus or Sartre and, going further in time: from Pirandello and Kafka.
In this sense, the issues dealt with are the man lost in a world where he does not find his place and where life is seen as a burlesque tragedy, the main themes are the vital anguish before death, nothingness , The passage of time, solitude or incommunication. We must remember that Europe comes from two great world wars with millions of dead; Of a situation in which the view of the Arts is very conditioned by the serious historical facts that in literature or in theater, as in other artistic facets, it receives a letter of this nature.
After all, Art tries to explain life.
As for the forms of dramatic expression, what this form of theater intends is to present the absurdity of the absurd at its maximum expression.
The scenes are, nevertheless, absurd, illogical, with a high degree of incoherence; Empty characters between strange environments.
All this seasoned with impossible dialogues, phrases meaningless, monologues without coherence.
Tragedy, anguish mingle with the grotesque.
In short, the theater of the absurd shows human existence from an extravagant point of view, opposite and opposed to reason, the absurd at its maximum expression, but making it feel, more than talking about it, on the stage tables.
Some examples of theater plays of the Theater of the Absurd
“Waiting for Godot” -Teatro Estudio 1978 (Samuel Beckett)
Ionesco – Theater of the absurd “Beware of the pots”
Authors of the Theater of the Absurd
French, of Romanian origin, Ionesco inaugurates in 1959 the theater of the absurd with the theatrical work ‘The bald singer’, a work in which no singer appears, much less, bald.
The play consisted of a series of scenes without much sense, loaded with grotesque language. Like the rest of works that would later write, ‘The chairs’, ‘The lesson’, underlies an existential anguish when referring to the human condition.
It was said that he practiced anti-theater, since it broke all the rules of classical theater and what the public was accustomed to contemplate.
Subsequently, his theatrical career changes towards other more humanistic tendencies, close to the parable. This is the case of ‘Rhino’ (1960), a work that tells how men, in a certain city, are becoming that animal species, describing the dehumanization of the human race.
Or, in the work ‘The king dies’ (1962), which describes the agony of the death of a king and how everything around him succumbs.
Beckett, born in Ireland in 1906, has in ‘Waiting for Godot‘ (1953), one of the key works of contemporary theater. The characters in the play wait for Godot, a character from whom nothing is known and never comes. The work is a succession of questions about the meaning of life and the constant need for waiting.
He was followed by other works and novels that delve into the matter. ‘End of the Game’ (1957) or ‘Oh, Happy Days’ (1963) continue to show empty and meaningless lives. In the novel, changing structures and narrative techniques that were used, writes ‘Molloy‘ or ‘The nameless‘.
In 1969 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Jean Genet, also French, with ‘The maids’ or ‘The balcony’; Englishmen like Pinter and Kopit; Or the Spanish Fernando Arrabal in his first period, also strengthened the theater of the absurd.