Artaud: un portrait en décomposition (TheatreRUN) 2012 SummerWorks Review

I should be clear from the start – my relationship to the famous French playwright Antonin Artaud prior to seeing the SummerWorks play Artaud was limited to the Wikipedia article you’ll be taken to if you click on his name.

This is slightly problematic as the play is entirely about peering into his brilliant, tortured soul, and admiring the space where his poetry (which you assumedly also admire if you are seeing this play) was cultivated.

I understand how, had I already been an admirer of Artaud and his work, this play would have been a delicious pleasure (a bad comparison is Woody Allen’s newest movie, Midnight in Paris – I’m a Literature grad and the movie is all about meeting famous modernist writers I already admire).

The show recieved a standing ovation, it’s clear that many in the audience felt quite moved. I too find it undeniably touching to witness my favorite (dead) writers temporarily reanimated. It’s so tangible, your favorite words embodied, corporealized!

I can’t say that in this case my emotions ever entered the experience, but now that I have been introduced to Artaud, I’d like to know him better.

Artaud has piqued my interest in Artaud.

Regardless, this show has a lot to offer intellectually and aesthetically. The mind is engaged but I think the senses are especially roused.

First of all, the show is in French, with English subtitles projected onto the black wall behind Artaud. You can easily spend most of the play trying to keep up with these poetic projections.

Or you can loosen your reliance on language-based understanding and watch Adam Paolozza’s beautiful depiction of Artaud. His performance is physical, lyrical, dance-like at times. A lot of the staging seems designed to imply movement without there actually being much movement, and I found it fascinating to watch.

Paolozza’s French is also captivating. At moments I closed my eyes and listened to him speak, understanding only the occasional word but absorbed in the melody of his voice.

The best aesthetic treat of all, though, is the shadow play. The actors are followed, Peter Pan-like, by their shadows on the wall behind them. The shadows add another performance on top of the performance, hiding and distorting elements that are clearly visible in the glare of the lights, reducing Artaud to his shifting outline.

If you think this all sounds very romanticized, you’re right. This play is a mood, and a sentimental one. My sentiments left pleased, and my intellect left piqued. Romantic indeed.

  • Artaud plays at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre at Pia Bouman (6 Noble Street) (not the Scotiabank Movie Theatre)
  • Show times: Fri. August 10, 7:30 PM, Thur. August 16, 5:00 PM, Sun. August 12, 12:00 PM, Fri. August 17, 10:00 PM, Mon. August 13, 7:30 PM, Sun. August 19, 5:00 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows