Savannah's Theatre Blog

Eclectic Theatre, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Bio-mechanics

Posted in Uncategorized by Savannah on February 27, 2011

Eclectic Theatre

Eclectic theatre essential brings material from a variety of sources. When eclectic theatre was beginning to emerge, many dramatists were rejecting many concepts of naturalism and realism. They were looking for something more modern and experimental. However, they still incorporated many elements of past styles, such as Epic Theatre, Absurdist Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed.

There came to be a greater focus on movement to tell a story, rather than dialogue. Theatre pieces began to emphasise dance, sound and light as ‘the primary expressions of language’ (Crawford, Hurst, Lugering, Wimmer, 1980: 238). Movement was made to be highly stylized and dramatist’s incorporated Asian ideas/techniques such as those found in Tai Chi and Butoh, as well as Laban’s theory of spatial movement, gymnastics, acrobatics and mime.

Eclectic theatre in the late 20th Century has been particular focussed on using movement as a means of story-telling.

Vsevolod Meyerhold and Bio-mechanics

Vsesvolod Meyerhold was the first to come up with what he labelled ‘bio-mechanics’. He had experimented with furthering Stanislavski’s approach in one of  Stanislavski’s workshops. Both believed that the one approach could not work for every play. Together they ‘(modernised)’ (Crawford, Hurst, Lugering, Wimmer, 1980: 199) Stanislavski’s style of acting. It is said in Acting in Person and in Style in Australia that the efficiency of bio-mechanics was a ‘reflex action’ (Crawford, Hurst, Lugering, Wimmer, 1980: 199) to the industrialised society. Movement became more significant and much emphasis was placed o gesture rather than dialogue.

Bio-mechanics were often unrealistic and mechanical and called on gymnastic s, circus movement, ballet, dance and acrobatics. Yet it was not for show; the employment of such things was to trigger emotion in the performer to add to the emotional impact on the audience. Bio-mechanics become very dissimilar to Stanislavski’s work as Meyerhold believed that ‘movement was superior to speech (Crawford, Hurst, Lugering, Wimmer, 1980: 200).

This comes under the umbrella of Symbolist Drama.

Symbolist Drama

Movement in symbolist drama helps to define relationships, as well as emotional and symbolic opinions. It becomes a ‘world in which reality and dreams mingle’ (Crawford, Hurst, Lugering, Wimmer, 1980:202). Actions are often disconnected and alter between that of a realistic and dream like state, much like the actual quality of a dream.

Often, movement is dehumanised to add emphasis on the surreal element of symbolist drama but are then smooth and flow freely in a dreamy fashion. It is a world in which transformation and a strong relationship between the extremes is crucial.


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