Poor theatre

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Poor Theatre as concept

A concept deriving from the work and theories of the influential Polish theatre practitioner Jerzy Grotowski (notably his collected essays published as Towards a Poor Theatre in 197*) and his friend and mentor Peter Brook (The Open Space and the preface to Towards a Poor Theatre).

Poor theatre in South Africa

In the protest period (1972-1989) the notion became of prime importance in the formation of what one may call the “South African theatre aesthetic”, though the interpretation of the term in South Africa is often far more literal than intended by Grotowski or Brook. Grotowsky’s notion of “poverty” essentially meant the casting off of external frippery and a intense focus on the expressive possibilities of the human body and an explication of the core images of the play. Often in South Africa it is simplistically seen as a play without set or costumes, performed in inadequate venues – i.e. as cheap theatre or theatre by people without resources. However, much of the best experimental work of groups linked to Athol Fugard, Barney Simon, Mbongeni Ngema, Nicholas Ellenbogen, Maishe Maponya, Dawie Malan, Mavis Taylor, Chris Pretorius, Andrew Buckland and others do tap into Grotowski’s central idea. Possibly the best, and certainly the most famous, South African example remains Woza Albert! and Barney Simon's experimental work at the Market Theatre over the years.

Much of the later work produced by the general physical theatre movement could also possibly be linked to this philosophy.

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