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Old Tuesday, June 05, 2012
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Lightbulb Theatre of The Absurd

A term used to characterize work of a number of European and American dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As the term suggests, the function of such theatre is to give dramatic expression to the philosophical notion of the 'absurd', a notion that had received widespread diffusion following the publication of Camus's essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe in 1942. To define the world as absurd is to recognize its fundamentally mysterious and indecipherable nature, and this recognition is frequently associated with feelings of loss, purposelessness, and bewilderment. To such feelings, the theatre of the Absurd gives ample expression, often leaving the observer baffled in the face of disjointed, meaningless, or repetitious dialogues, incomprehensible behaviour, and plots which deny all notion of logical or 'realistic' development. But the recognition of the absurd nature of human existence also provided dramatists with a rich source of comedy, well illustrated in two early absurd plays, Ionesco's La Cantatrice chauve, written in 1948 (The Bald Prima Donna, 1958), and Beckett's En attendant Godot (1952; rans, by the author, Waiting for Godot, 1954, subtitled 'A Tragicomedy in Two Acts'). The Theatre of the Absurd drew significantly on popular traditions of entertainment, on mime, acrobatics, and circus clowning, and, by seeking to redefine the legitimate concerns of 'serious' theatre, played an important role in extending the range of post-war drama.

Amongst the dramatists associated with the theatre of the Absurd:- Camus, Genet, Eugène Ionesco (1912-94), Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), *Pinter, and Boris Vian (1920-59).
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